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The renovations to Showker and the new CoB Learning Complex will cost $99,235,000. 

In an upcoming fall semester full of unknowns, JMU College of Business students and faculty have one certainty to look forward to: a state-of-the-art new headquarters.

Newman Lake is less lonely, thanks to the addition of the new CoB Learning Complex, which will host students this fall. The facility will be 210,000 square feet including Showker Hall, which will be fully renovated by May 2021.

The complex is designed to be a one-stop-shop for CoB students and will feature renovated classrooms, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, and a dining facility with a bakery, coffee and sandwiches so students can come in the morning and stay all day. The cafe is like an “upscale Panera,” CoB Dean Michael Busing said.

“We’re going to be spoiled,” Busing said. “I just know we are.”

Besides the alluring aroma of cinnamon bread and bagels, the new CoB Learning Complex boasts a boardroom for meetings; space for its digital marketing program; a center for innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship; and a Capital Markets lab with Bloomberg terminals and a ticker-tape running through it.

Classrooms feature whiteboards with backlighting, 100-inch flat screens, monitors on the back wall for students presenting and highly flexible seating thanks to rotating chairs that allow classes to switch from a lecture-style setup to small groups in around 30 seconds.

“It’s the closest thing to New York I’ve ever seen in Harrisonburg,” Busing said.

Showker Hall debuted in 1991 and was designed for 2,400 students. The CoB has doubled in size to over 5,000 students, Busing said, who said he realized about 10 years ago that the CoB was outgrowing Showker. The project went into motion after encouragement from the CoB’s Board of Advisers in 2014 and began in May 2018. 

Building the new space and renovating Showker will cost $99,235,000, Charles King, senior vice president for administration and finance, said. Of that cost, JMU was responsible for $15 million, which was funded through private donations. Busing said that was “pretty scary” at first, given that funding would come from what he said was a relatively young alumni base. 

JMU set out to raise $16.6 million to account for interest, and it’s at $15.1 million as of early August, according to its website. The state covered the remaining 83% of the $86.3 million construction expenses and the $12.9 million needed for equipment.

“This new facility is going to be one of the nicest in the country,” King said. “It’ll be very attractive for students to come here and major in business, [and] it’ll be attractive to faculty who want to come here and teach and want to work in one of the nicest and most modern college of business buildings in the country.”

Faculty occupied the building in early June, though minor touch-ups continue and will be complete by the time the semester starts. The construction timeline wasn’t materially affected by the pandemic, Busing said, as the construction crew from Kjellstrom and Lee was wrapping up by the time the virus hit Harrisonburg.

All summer, faculty, staff and administrators put their heads together to make the best use of the facility given social distancing guidelines, Busing said. He hopes students can fully enjoy the space this semester, even as restrictions limit the new rooms to half capacity. Some classes will have a hybrid model where half the class attends in person while the others watch online.

Students will appreciate the spacious, open public areas furnished with comfortable furniture, Stephen Briggs, content manager for the CoB’s office of marketing and communications, said. It’s unclear how students will use the space this semester, but the CoB is thinking for the future.

One key part of that is securing a name, Busing said. CoB has partnered with donors to name everything from the bakery to the arrival plaza outside where packages are dropped off, but the crown jewel is naming the building itself.

“You only get one chance to name a building,” Busing said. “We have not come across that donor yet, but here’s what I’m optimistic about: Once some high-profile donors start to see this building — and it’s more than just the bricks and mortar; it’s what’s happening inside this building — somebody’s going to want their name on this building.”

Contact James Faris at breezembr@gmail.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.