RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has announced the official opening date of its new College of Humanities and Sciences building located at the former site of the historic Franklin Street Gym.
According to a release from the university, the six-story, 168,000-square-foot building — whose facilities will focus on the fields of science, technology, engineering and math — will officially open on Wednesday, April 26, at 10 a.m., following a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The new building, located next to Johnson Residence Hall at 817 West Franklin Street, will contain a common space for students, as well as 32 teaching labs, several classrooms (two of which will have 250 seats each) and the Math Exchange, a space dedicated to pre-calculus instruction which currently resides on the 900 block of West Grace Street.
817 West Franklin Street was home to the Franklin Street Gym from 1952 until it was demolished in 2020. According to Style Weekly, the gym was built with the first state funds ever allocated to the Richmond Professional Institute, almost two decades before it merged with the Medical College of Virginia to become VCU.
The Rams played their home basketball games in the Franklin Street Gym until 1979 when they moved to the Richmond Coliseum. In addition to athletics, the gym was home to VCU Arts studios and hosted concerts by several musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Alice Cooper and The Ramones.
In September 2019, the VCU Board of Visitors voted to demolish the Franklin Street Gym in order to make space for the new STEM building. That same year, the school secured a grant from the state for the building’s construction, which cost about $125 million.
“At VCU we pride ourselves on making education and research more accessible to all students. Modern facilities thoughtfully designed to support learning and innovation will foster our ability to shape Virginia, its robust economy and the well-being of people everywhere,” said VCU President Michael Rao. “As we educate the next generation of scientists and leaders, VCU’s new STEM building will foster seamless integration of classroom learning with hands-on research engagement, encouraging students to collaborate across disciplines and facilitate discovery — which is what the world needs. We are modeling a truly public research university in the 21st century.”
Nearly 60% of VCU students are enrolled in the College of Humanities and Sciences, according to the university.