The Gannon University Board of Trustees has approved the construction of an 80,000-square-foot building on the university’s campus in Ruskin, Fla.
The board, which took action at its meeting on Sept. 21-22, also backed the university’s involvement in the Erie Downtown Development Corp., or EDDC.
The EDDC is a privately funded nonprofit that — according to its website — has a core mission of fueling economic growth through real estate development in downtown Erie with the intent of strengthening its core assets and driving revitalization across the region.
Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., said both moves represent progress for the Erie community and Gannon’s Ruskin campus.
“The community has been trying to rally around something that would allow us to move our economy, neighborhoods and downtown forward,” Taylor said.
He said he and the board believe that the EDDC is the vehicle for revitalization in downtown Erie.
Leading this initiative alongside Gannon are two other key players in the area: UPMC Hamot and Erie Insurance.
According to the EDDC website, the organization plans to develop land to increase the city’s tax base and potential for mixed-income housing, among other things.
The real estate development projects that will likely begin popping up in two to four years will be supported by the Erie Downtown Equity Fund.
Gannon has committed $2.5 million to this fund, contributing to the $10 million raised so far. The Erie Downtown Equity Fund hopes to continue growing and attracting outside donors as well.
Taylor said looking ahead to the years to come, this commitment to revitalizing Erie’s downtown will lead to new jobs, more residential properties, a reinforced centrality to the region and economic growth.
He said that attracting jobs to the area will create more opportunities for Gannon graduates and added that a better downtown makes for a better student experience.
Down in Ruskin, Gannon is also making moves to create a better experience.
In addition to the original 17,000-square-foot building, plans have been approved to build a new 80,000-square-foot learning center.
The Ruskin campus, which opened in 2015, currently has 117 students studying for their doctorate in occupational therapy or physical therapy, or their master’s degree in athletic training.
The new building will hold classrooms, labs, offices and a wellness center complete with PT clinical testing rooms.
This building will also be able to facilitate the physician assistant graduate program coming to Ruskin in 2019.
The university also is looking to add a speech and language pathology program around 2020.