Opportunity Greensboro wants to locate the Downtown University Campus at South Elm and Lee streets as a cornerstone of redevelopment in the corridor.

The organization — a partnership between area businesses, city leaders and local universities — announced the preferred location for the shared campus during a press conference on the site Tuesday morning. The vacant land, owned by the City of Greensboro, is bound by South Elm, East Lee and Arlington streets, and backs up to a planned section of the Downtown Greenway.

Chancellor Linda P. Brady called the Downtown University Campus “an amazing collaboration.”  “This site has been waiting for something to happen,” she said after the press conference. “It needed this kind of project to bring change.”

UNCG will play a large role in the project. From the outset, the School of Nursing will provide education and training for nurses at the new facility, which will house the school’s new Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, scheduled to launch in Fall 2015.

Brady stood alongside N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin, GTCC President Randy Parker and Cone Health CEO Tim Rice on Tuesday to speak about the collaborative project, its significance for their respective institutions and its importance for the city as a whole. They were backed by an electronic billboard emblazoned with Opportunity Greensboro’s tagline, “Opportunity thrives here. So can you.”

“We consume a great deal of their product, if you will,” Rice said of Cone’s demand for well-trained nurses from area colleges and universities. Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins and Mayor-Elect Nancy Vaughan also made remarks in support of the project.

Deliberations on the site selection took six months. Brady said the group considered about 20 parcels for the campus before narrowing the field to three.

She said the potential for expansion around the South Elm/Lee site is a big incentive to locate there. Developers spoke Tuesday of the potential for hotels, shops and upscale apartments in the surrounding area.

This first building will cost about $40 million: an estimated $26 million for design and construction plus $14 million for land, parking, equipment and infrastructure. Completion is projected for summer 2016. Funds would come from lease fees, the city, corporate gifts and grants.

A current building plan includes a 105,000-square-foot facility that reaches to four floors and includes shared classrooms, labs, an auditorium, seminar and meeting rooms, a student support center and office space. A state-of-the art healthcare simulation lab will be a cornerstone of the building. Plans include a 200-300 space surface parking lot or parking deck.

Brady said the option to lease space and share costs is essential for UNCG and other public universities given the current budgetary climate. Securing state funds for a new nursing building on campus could take years, she said. The DNP program, already approved for implementation, will need the space soon.

Robin Remsburg, dean of the School of Nursing, said the DNP program will serve about 150 students. The DNP is emerging as a preferred degree in the field, providing experience and training beyond the masters in nursing, she said. She compares it with doctoral programs in pharmacology and physical therapy.

“The DNP is a practice degree,” Remsburg said. “Students are learning to take research and evidence that exist and apply them in a clinical setting. Research degrees are primarily concerned with the future, nurses in this program are focused on the here and now.”

Other plans call for the School of Nursing to serve registered nurses working on the bachelor’s in nursing. Many of those nurses would be Cone Health employees.

The next steps for Opportunity Greensboro include finalizing the land acquisition process, continuing discussion with the city about its role in the project, refining the projected costs and beginning fundraising.

Ed Kitchen, co-chair of Opportunity Greensboro, called the project a “national model of collaboration” that harnesses Greensboro’s substantial educational assets to drive the local economy.

Story by Michelle Hines, University Relations

Photography by Chris English, University Relations