Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), a historically Black university located in Charlotte, N.C., is giving its more than 150-year-old campus a facelift this summer as the Department of Facilities rolls out upgrades in academic, athletic, administrative, and residential buildings across the campus.
The initiative, spearheaded by Director of Facilities Erna Perkins-Jones, began nearly three years ago when she stepped into her role.
“When I started, I made vision boards and shared what the campus could look like with our executive cabinet and the Board of Trustees,” she said. “I told them we may not be able to do it all at once, but we can do it in phases. So, we managed everything from a life-safety prospective to learn what needed to be fixed immediately to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”
Due to the advanced age of the campus, buildings began to face issues like mold, which can cling to furniture and walls. In her first year, Perkins-Jones disposed of all of the furniture and replaced it.
In November 2021, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles announced the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, a plan with four work streams that would use private and corporate donations to close the gap of racial inequity in the Charlotte community.
JCSU received $80 million from the initiative, $9 million of which was recently allocated to the Department of Facilities to make needed upgrades. After finalizing plans, Perkins-Jones and her team began tackling the projects in June.
Perkins-Jones said all of the residence halls will be receiving a complete LED lighting update, and will all be repainted and branded with JCSU colors. Some of the major improvements include a new HVAC system in Greenfield Hall, a new roof on New Residence Hall, the restoration of student lounges in Mosaic Village, and a new HVAC system for Myers and Sanders Halls.
Several residence halls will also get new furniture and have received waterproofing and treatments to ward off mold and mildew. Perkins-Jones said she and her team have been very strategic in their furniture selections.
“The new furniture is not made of porous wood,” she said. “Every decision we’ve made since I’ve started has been dedicated to preventing mold.”
Perry Hall, Davis Hall, and James B. Duke Memorial Library will each get their own HVAC systems. All of these buildings currently share a boiler system, which causes issues to all three buildings if a malfunction occurs.
Albright Hall will become a new space for veteran and adult learners. In the realm of athletics, the Irwin Belk Complex will be repainted to match the branding and vibrance of Eddie McGirt Field, which Perkins-Jones and her team replaced with turf in the spring.
“This huge endeavor this summer is thanks to partnerships on many levels,” said Perkins-Jones. “The funding came from corporate and private contributors, but we’ve also been gifted suppliers and laborers to help us meet our goals.”
Several workers who were misplaced after the SouthPark fire in May have been relocated to JCSU’s campus to continue working, and the furniture supply company sent its student interns to the university to help assemble furniture.
“There were students from Howard University, Harvard University, and our own students at Johnson C. Smith University here helping us,” said Perkins-Jones.
Perkins-Jones said she is happy to do her part in making all of the facilities on campus look fantastic and operate efficiently. She said she is currently working with engineers and corporate partners to discuss sustainable lighting for campus buildings and sports facilities.
Sydlie Fleurimond ’24 has served as the public relations representative in the student government association (SGA) since last year, and will begin the 2023-24 academic year as the university’s SGA president. She said she is excited to learn that the Department of Facilities is working hard to address concerns on campus while taking student opinions in mind.
“Refreshed campus spaces can foster a more conducive learning environment, boost student engagement and productivity, and potentially attract prospective students,” she said. “These updates address some of the students’ concerns in several ways, such as improved facilities and enhanced amenities. It means that the students’ voices and concerns regarding the campus environment have been heard and addressed.”
Fleurimond said she is excited to continue to advocate for students and is ready to work hard to foster a strong relationship between students and the university. She encouraged her fellow classmates to make sure they fill out surveys sent by the university so their ideas and voices are heard when changes like these occur.
Perkins-Jones anticipates that the “Summer 2023 Refresh Project” will be complete before Smithites move onto campus to start the 2023-24 academic year on Aug. 14, 2023.
Gabrielle Issac Allison is assistant director of media relations at JCSU. This article was originally published on the university’s news site and was republished with permission.