They’ve talked about it for years in Nashville. Now the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University is moving ahead with a long-desired and -needed renovation and expansion of its main campus building, Management Hall, that will double the size of the building. Vanderbilt on Monday (February 22) announced a $55 million project, beginning in March, that will encompass a total of 48,000 square feet.
A “true” renovation, the plans call for tearing down the brick façade of Management Hall on 21st Avenue and building out toward the street, eliminating the frontage road. The building will also expand upward, with a total of four floors off the first floor in addition to the basement. All the classrooms and the auditorium are being reconfigured, as well. Only the school library — itself renovated in recent years — and the original building, an old engineering hall from the late 1800s, will remain untouched.
More than 50 years after the school was founded — and not having had significant space additions since the mid-eighties and nothing of this scope since moving into the building in 1979 — it was time for a change, as most at Vanderbilt and the Owen School agree.
“These new spaces will advance Owen’s commitment to collaboration, innovation and inclusion — all qualities that are especially important right now,” Susan R. Wente, Vanderbilt provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, says in an announcement of the project. “I look forward to the impact this project will have on business education at Owen.”
EXPANDING DURING A PANDEMIC
In 2019-2020, the school’s MBA program had a big bounce-back year, with more than 1,200 applications — a nearly 80% jump over the previous year.
But while the pandemic can certainly be credited for some of that resurgence, it also created a challenge in launching a major renovation project. Vanderbilt Owen substantially changed its blueprint for the new Management Hall as a result of Covid-19, says Nate Luce, the school’s senior director of marketing and communications. The building won’t be “pandemic resistant,” he says, but it will accommodate a completely overhauled HVAC system and different — and greater — spaces. It will also be LEED-certified.
“Despite the difficulties of the current moment, we are dedicated to providing world-class facilities that set the stage for the best in scholarship and education,” says Daniel Diermeier, chancellor of Vanderbilt University. “This new space will make a profound impact on our mission and common purpose for years to come. This expansion reinforces Vanderbilt’s long-term vision and commitment to excellence in everything we do.”
The Owen School celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, which helped significantly with donors for the Management Hall overhaul. The Owen Century Partners, a group of early supporters of the project, committed more than $13 million to help launch the building renovation and expansion. Since then, more alumni have committed additional gifts, bringing the fundraising total to over $20 million. Among the big early donors are Paul Jacobson, executive vice president and CFO of GM, and Adena Friedman, president and CEO of Nasdaq.
“We are so grateful for the visionary support of the Owen Century Partners, and all of the alumni who have given to help achieve this milestone,” says M. Eric Johnson, dean of the Owen School. “This show of commitment during a very challenging year shows their resolve to successfully launch the Owen School into its next 50 years.”
NEW TO THE BUILDING: AN OUTSIDE DECK ON THE 4TH FLOOR
In addition to a new entrance at street level, there will also be a new café, collaboration spaces for students, and a multipurpose room that can fit the entire MBA student body. The classrooms on the second floor will be greatly expanded, as will the office space on the third floor. On the newly created fourth floor, the school will add an outside deck, an event space, and two classrooms.
The project won’t impact classes much, Luce says, because most work will be done during the summer, when little had been planned anyway. While work continues in the fall, students will have access to five classrooms in the building, open at any given time. Classes also will be held in a separate annexed building called Center Building.
The project is expected to be finished in time for the start of classes in fall 2022.