By Claudia O’Brien • Photos by John Jernigan
For a year and a half, we had front-row seats to watch construction on the 60,000 sq. ft. Ewers Century Center at Central Florida Community College.
Driving along SR200, we’ve admired its glass-fronted elegance and grace. And we’ve felt a sense of community pride that such a fine building is now part of the Ocala landscape.
Now it’s open — and it’s expected that we will all benefit from its presence. The Center is, after all, much more than just an impressive building — it’s an entity that will help nurture students’ futures and foster excellence throughout our community.
A couple of weeks before the first students began attending classes in the new building, members of the local media were privileged to get an early peek inside.
I heard lots of “wows” that morning.
When you enter the front doors of the Ewers Century Center, it’s as if you’re bringing the outside along with you. Everything feels so spacious and open — maybe it’s the expanse of glass that let in so much light, or the soaring atrium area, or the cheerful, distinctive colors chosen for the interior space.
Perhaps it’s also the spirit of the place that makes it feel so open. It’s intended to be a space where teaching, learning and collaborative thinking will lose some of their old boundaries, thanks to both technology and philosophical intent.
CFCC President Dr. Charles Dassance calls the Ewers Century Center “a signature building for the college, an open door to the college and to learning.”
The cost, including interior furnishings, signage and landscaping was $14 million. The Ron and Phyllis Ewers family kicked off the project with a generous $2 million contribution.
The first floor is comprised of several distinct spaces that will serve diverse segments of the community. Some of the key areas are:
• The Pathways Center: includes CFCC’s Senior Institute and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), providing gateways for 55-plus residents to connect with services for volunteering, employment, and lifelong learning, as well as with wellness and social activities.
• The Teleconference Center: an 80-seat facility that will offer everything from professional courses for continuing education credits to presentations by national speakers. Conference participants can also be seen and heard in remote locations via sophisticated video conferencing equipment.
• The Strategic Planning Institute: provides critical planning aid for local businesses and non-profit organizations by the college’s trained facilitators.
• The national ACT “Just in Time” Training Center: will help our local workforce develop skills in a convenient, cost-effective manner. Businesses, organizations and individuals can select from more than 2,500 top-quality Web- or computer-based courses. The ACT Center also offers workplace skill assessments and computer-delivered certification and licensure tests for both professionals and tradespeople.
• The Harvey R. Klein Conference Center: can accommodate both large and small events in its flexible space, which includes the latest in audio-visual capabilities. There is a large adjacent catering kitchen. The 4,000 sq. ft. center provides an ideal venue for trade shows, membership events, conventions, corporate meetings and business luncheons. It can accommodate more than 400 people in theater-style seating.
• The Public Policy Institute of Marion County: has a permanent home on campus in this new space. The Institute researches, studies and makes recommendations on important public policy issues in our county.
• The Information and Welcome Center: located in the atrium area, the center provides friendly assistance for college visitors. There’s also a box office where tickets for all CFCC events and performances can be purchased.
Both the second and third floors of the Century Center are comprised primarily of business and technology classrooms and computer labs. Here, the very latest technology provides the college’s business and technology faculty and students — as well as, at times, continuing education instructors and students — with cutting-edge opportunities for teaching and learning. The Business and Technology Faculty and Administration have offices on the second floor.
What we haven’t been able to see when we drove by the front of the Century Center is the Enterprise Center that nestles behind the three-story building. The 25,400 sq. foot, two-story facility is an educational, economic and workforce development hub for the region where local organizations are brought together to provide “one-stop services” for existing and future business and industry.
“We’re extremely happy to be able to construct this building for the benefit of the college and the community,” explains Dr. Cash Pealer, CFCC Foundation president. Construction was funded through an additional $500,000 contribution by the Ewers Family and by an Enterprise Florida loan. The Center is intended to be self-supporting.
Within its walls are the corporate offices of the Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corporation, as well as the Citrus/Levy/Marion Workforce Connection and the Withlacoochee Workforce Connection. There’s also a support office for the Marion County Public Schools’ Community, Technical and Adult Education Center, as well as generous classroom space dedicated to continuing education.
According to Dr. Joe Wallace, CFCC’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, approximately 25% of the total space in the Enterprise Center is still vacant. “It’s available for lease by tenants whose offerings complement those of the other groups in the building,” he says.
Now, when we drive past the Ewers Century Center, we can appreciate not only the glass-fronted building, but also what’s going on inside it, as well as adjacent to it, in the Enterprise Center.
Their presence has delivered a potent infusion of excitement and expanded opportunity to the nearly half-century-year-old CFCC campus. It also has given all of us a new appreciation for the educational resources we have here that are growing and getting better all the time.
CFCC President Dassance says that he hopes the Enterprise Center will serve as a national model.
“To our knowledge, there’s no other facility in the nation that has brought together these entities on a college campus to support education, economic and workforce development.”
By Claudia O’Brien • Photos by John Jernigan