By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

Those who showed up for Bowie State University homecoming festivities were late to a different party of sorts. The sprawling Prince George’s County campus continued its expansion that will benefit Maryland’s oldest Historically Black College and its corporate community.

A group of state, county, and local officials participated in an on-campus celebration heralding the construction of Bowie State’s Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community. The ceremonial groundbreaking was held Oct. 10 at the university’s Robinson Hall Lawn, as a preamble to the pomp and circumstance that signals the week-long celebration of pride on campus. 

Bowie State University broke ground on Oct. 10 for their new Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community. (Courtesy Photo)

“For over two years the Cabinet, community leaders, along with anyone who would listen, have heard me describe this unique project that was envisioned to open the campus to our surrounding community and to help strengthen our connection to the economic engine of the region,” said BSU President Dr. Aminta Breaux. “It is exciting to see the concept advance to this phase.”

The university continues to bask in a renaissance during a spike in student enrollment that includes a rise in the number of out of state applicants. However, trying to keep up with the need for adequate housing has been a challenge. In order to accomodate, BSU has needed more on campus residences and several new dormitories have been constructed over the last decade.

“As we continue to see increased demand from prospective students, we must meet that demand with more housing for students who are seeking a residential experience during college,” Dr. Breaux said. “Last year, we broke an enrollment record when we hit an enrollment of 6,320 students and this year applications were up once again. We must keep pace with that demand if we are to fulfill our mission.”

The artist rendering of the new Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community, set to begin construction in February of next year. (Courtesy Photo)

The residence hall will be more than just a temporary home for over 500 students who choose to live on campus. It will serve a dual purpose and become the new home of the university’s Entrepreneurship Academy and the Bowie Business Innovation Center (Bowie BIC) that will become the first business accelerator located at a Maryland HBCU. This project is expected to help meet the university’s growing demand for on-campus student housing and the facility will also provide retail space that will be open to the public. Plans also include space for Bowie State student businesses, a student makerspace and classrooms featuring state of the art technology.

Construction on the Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community is scheduled to begin next February and is expected to be completed by July 2021. University officials see this marking a significant expansion of space for business, innovation and entrepreneurship in Maryland.

“Among other goals I hope that this new facility will encourage those thousands of cars that pass the campus each day to stop and learn more about what I see at Bowie State University each day—excellence ” Dr. Breaux said. “Excellence in our students, our faculty, our academic programs and our preparation for the 21st century workforce—this gem we have in Prince George’s County.”

The project is expected to cost $42 million and will be funded with tax-exempt bonds through the Maryland Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO). Balfour Beatty Construction is the lead contractor for the project and Design Collective, Inc., a national, award-winning design firm is also one of the collaborators. Smoot Construction, a minority-owned general contractor who worked on the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is also a part of the construction team.