Trustees OK choice of construction companies for NCCU’s next student center

North Carolina Central University
North Carolina Central University

As plans for its new student center move ahead, N.C. Central University is going to lean on the same construction company to build it that UNC system counterparts in Charlotte, Greensboro and Boone have employed for similar projects.

Campus trustees on Tuesday approved the selection of Balfour Beatty Construction as the “at-risk” manager of a project they expect will cost about $36.1 million. A second firm, Holt Brothers Construction, is joining it and has worked previously with Balfour Beatty on a new dorm at Winston-Salem State University.

Yet another company, Hanson Professional Services, will backstop them as the university’s hired “commissioning agent,” verifying that the actual construction meets the building’s design, said Jonathan Peeler, NCCU’s associate vice chancellor for facilities management.

Aside from its portfolio elsewhere in the UNC system, Balfour Beatty has worked for N.C. Central before, erecting the current home of the university’s School of Nursing. That facility, “the last large capital project we’ve completed on campus,” went smoothly and since opening has performed well, Peeler said.

In interviews, it was also obvious the firm has good chemistry with Holt Brothers, its Raleigh-based joint-venture partner founded by former NFL and N.C. State University football players Terrence and Torry Holt, Peeler said.

Tuesday’s trustee vote was the latest milestone for the project, which will replace the 1960s-era Alfonso Elder Student Union and is supposed to open in time for the fall 2021 semester. Campus officials have sized it to handle the 10,000 students a year they think will be on campus 15 years from now. NCCU’s present enrollment is in the low 8,000s.

Trustees October ratified the selection of a trio of architectural firms — O’Brien/Atkins Associates, Duda/Paine Architects and MHTN Architects — to handle the design process. O’Brien/Atkins and Duda/Paine are based in Durham.

Balfour Beatty is the U.S. arm of a British company that’s been around since 1909, and is noted for its work on construction projects large and small.

In the UNC system alone, the U.S. branch of Balfour has erected the Popp Martin Student Union at UNC-Charlotte, expanded the Plemmons Student Union at Appalachian State University and is in the process of building a new student center for N.C. A&T State University.

Founded in 2007, Holt Brothers has amassed a portfolio that includes work on such projects as the recent, $35 million renovation of Reynolds Coliseum at N.C. State.

The NCCU student center is one of two buildings campus leaders hope to open for the fall of 2021. The other, a new home for the School of Business, is ticketed for a site on the corner of Lawson Street and N.C. 55.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg