AAMU Officials Seek to Preserve & Enhance Amid Growth, Expansion Talks

NORMAL, Ala. (WHNT) – Thursday WHNT News 19 reported the master growth and expansion plan for Alabama A&M University presented by the Atlanta-based Sizemore Group and adopted by university board of trustees committee members.

It calls for the construction of a new $16 million student center to ‘re-energize’ the hub of the school; effectively activating both the quad and The block. The plan also pinpointed more than a dozen buildings on campus suggested for demolition as they were deemed ‘non-effective assets’ by the Sizemore Group.

But in the effort to facilitate expansion and growth in student enrollment from 5,000 to 6,600 students, there was also much attention paid to historical preservation as The Sizemore Group studied the campus and all its rich heritage.

University officials must now reconcile balancing future needs with preserving the past.

“We have been very, very blessed as minority students to have had the advantages in the quality of education that we received from minority schools,” said AAMU alumna Veronica Lockhart at Thursday’s master plan town hall meeting on campus.

Lockhart made her case for the university retaining Council Training School – the school that served the whole of Madison County as the only minority training center for many years. The building was among a dozen recommended for repurpose or demolition.

“You’ll never know what it meant to sit at the foothill of Alabama A&M University and look to the icon for education as a child,” explained Lockhart. “It encouraged little children, small children to aspire to even greater achievement in the area of education.”

Lockhart says history drives our future. Afterall, education for minorities was far different in the years prior to the late 1950s and early 1960s – a struggle and triumph she says should never be overlooked.

“You’ll never know how cold I was on that raggedy old yellow bus that the majority had tossed aside as I rode on my way to Council Training School,” Lockhart recounted amid claps and cheers from meeting attendees.

Drake Resources Center and University Library Director Annie Peyton says even as the university looks to expand and update facilities and technology, the structures representing legacy must be honored.

“We need to embrace that and  make the effort to treasure those by getting historical markers so the community, the students and the faculty will know the rich history of the beginning of this university,” says Peyton.

AAMU President Andrew Hugine, Jr., praised the efforts of The Sizemore Group.  He noted, however, that any structures recommended by the team for removal form only ‘a recommendation’ upon which the administration must evaluate and make a final decision in the future. He characterized the master plan as a ‘road map’.

quadRefurbishment to the school’s main quad have already begun. Old buildings may be re-purposed or updated, but the legacy tied to structures like Council Training Center will never be forgotten or diminished; their mere brick and mortar belie their true significance – much more than a facade.

“When you think of all the legislators, the doctors, the politicians, the school teachers and the nurses and everyone that came out of training by attending the Council Training School –  I don’t think we need to get rid of that we need to celebrate that and try to preserve it,” Peyton says.

The Sizemore Group planners added some future growth can be absorbed by returning online a number of existing facilities that are not being used, as well as repurposing others.  Presenters also encouraged AAMU constituencies to consider placing historical markers to preserve the significance of the current sites, as well as structures no longer existing, such as the Green Bottom Inn, Slave Block and others.

Although significant construction (new residence hall, student center) was not outlined, the plan did call for more points of entry and parking areas, consolidation of instructional spaces toward the heart of the campus, renovation to the McCalep Vocational Building, and the removal of structures considered non-effective, such as the Gravitt apartments, old campus police building and the carpentry building.

Adequate steps toward the fulfillment of the master plan could be achieved through bond issue, fees and other revenue, HBCU capital financing loan program, and even FEMA, stated the Sizemore representatives.

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