FMU begins construction for new building: A two-decade plan finally breaks ground

After more than two decades of planning, FMU has closed down the Smith University Center (UC) parking lot to begin the construction of a new building dedicated to the School of Business and the School of Education.   

“When I arrived on campus almost 24 years ago, the people from the School of Business and the School of Education approached me about whether or not it would be possible to acquire an appropriation or support to build a school – a school that the two professional schools, business and education, could use,” Fred Carter, president of FMU, said.  

That same year, in 1999, President Carter went to the General Assembly to request planning money for the building. Initially, the General Assembly gave FMU $800,000 for architectural planning.   

FMU hired architects and came up with a schematic that has been hanging on the wall of the School of Business conference room for years.   

Unfortunately, right after the initial plans were created by the architectural team, the state went into an economic crisis.    

“When we would go and make requests to the General Assembly, the General Assembly would want to focus on other types of requests,” President Carter said. “They wanted to focus on funding our health science programs. Nursing programs and medical programs were an enormous priority to the state at that time.”  

Though the building for business and education was planned first, later projects were completed much earlier due to fundraising efforts by private organizations and the city of Florence.   

Much of the money for the Lee Nursing Building was raised privately and there was a broad coalition created to build the Performing Arts Center (PAC) downtown. The PAC was a $36 million project, but there were contributions from the state, the city and private foundations.   

“These other buildings came along because they represent a mix of public and private dollars,” President Carter said.   

Two years ago, FMU went back to the General Assembly and requested funding for the building once again. This time the General Assembly granted them every penny of the $24 million request.  

This new building will be 54,000 square feet with two wings for each of the schools, multiple shared areas and amenities and, of course, a fountain.   

“In truth, for this building, it took from 1999 to about 2022 to get the funding to build the building,” President Carter said. “It was very important to me that this building got built before I retired because I felt as though I had committed to the School of Business and School of Education back then that I would do my very best to get that building built.”   

Not only is the new addition underway after more than 20 years, but the full state funding has other positive implications for FMU students.   

“Since all this money for this building has already been raised, not a dime of their tuition will go into the construction of this building,” President Carter said. “We try to raise the money for our facilities external to our university, and we’ve been pretty successful in that so far.”   

Additionally, FMU will preserve as much of the nature area around the building as possible.    

“The rest of that pond and that wooded area will remain intact,” President Carter said. “Certainly, during my administration, no other buildings will be built near the pond because we want to maintain the integrity of the remainder of the pond.”  

Despite genuine concerns for the environment, President Carter still has his own personal reasons for not wanting to upset the pond area—his son caught his first fish there when he was two-and-a-half years old.   

“I am very supportive of keeping that pond intact and pristine so that generations of other community kids can come and fish at that pond,” President Carter said.   

FMU plans to complete the construction of the new building in the summer of 2024.