The University of Alabama at Birmingham bridges collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship with the opening of the $37.5 million state-of-the-art facility that will house the Collat School of Business and Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HIIE).
“This beautiful new building changes everything,” said Collat School of Business Dean Eric Jack. “This addition to UAB’s campus heralds a new era of leadership in business education that will help drive innovation at UAB and in Birmingham for many years to come.”
The grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Friday, Aug. 24, at 10 a.m. at 1201 University Blvd. Students began classes for the fall semester Monday, Aug. 27.
The 108,000-square-foot building was designed with input from students and community business leaders so that every detail enhances the learning experience while preparing students to work in modern business environments. The facility features breakout rooms, an innovation lab, classrooms designed for team-based learning, a high-tech finance lab, sales role-playing rooms, a three-story atrium, an auditorium, a career center and quiet study spaces.
“The generous gift from Charles and his late wife, Patsy, for our new Collat School of Business has already enabled us to build on our reputation as one of the premier business schools in the nation,” said UAB President Ray Watts. “The Collats have been actively engaged with our School of Business and contributed to its success for nearly three decades, and their outstanding example of philanthropy underscores the power of partnership to advance all areas of UAB’s mission. This is a transformational moment for the Collat School of Business and our university, and we look forward to the tremendous impact this facility will have for years to come – providing exceptional opportunities for tomorrow’s business leaders and entrepreneurs and helping to grow a robust innovation-based economy for Birmingham and Alabama.”
Located along the north side of University Boulevard between 12th and 13th streets south, the building will offer a modern learning environment and the technology infrastructure expected to competitively recruit the next generation of business leaders, as well as top faculty and staff dedicated to educating them. Open seating areas throughout the building promote collaboration and a sense of community, affiliation and connection to UAB while furthering innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities.
“Locating the HIIE in the new Collat School of Business Building creates a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship right in the heart of campus that serves students, faculty and also the wider Birmingham innovation community,” said Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., associate vice president and executive director of the Bill L. Harbert Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “The new space supports our commitment to leveraging UAB’s powerful research engine to transfer discoveries into products that positively impact quality of life and highlights our goal to generate a pipeline of companies that promote economic development within the region.”
The facility houses administrative and student function space for the Collat School of Business and HIIE, as well as the Center for Sales Leadership, the Nielsen Innovation Lab, the Healthcare Leadership Academy and the Regions Institute for Financial Education. The co-location of these cross-discipline entities will foster increased collaboration and create a bridge between undergraduate and graduate students and the marketplace.
“We also want to thank our incredible business community, alumni, faculty, staff and students,” Jack said. “We would not have this incredible new learning facility without their generous support.”
Gifts given by local businesses such as the Joy and Bill Harbert Foundation, Medical Properties Trust, Regions Bank and Kassouf & Co. exemplify the support of the community in furthering this project, which is the cornerstone of efforts to expand technology commercialization to attain positive impacts on economic development for the community, state and beyond.
From an exterior perspective, the overall architecture of the building is in keeping with the recently completed Hill Student Center and soon-to-be completed School of Nursing, featuring a combination of traditional building materials and contemporary building elements.
The building is four stories in total, with a primarily traditional brick enclosure and conventional windows on the western and eastern elevations, while the northern and southern elevations are primarily glass storefront. Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York City and Williams Blackstock Architects of Birmingham designed the building so that all 100-plus offices have a window that is exposed to natural light from the exterior of the building. This was accomplished by having full-height atriums, or light-wells, on the east and west ends of the building.
The Coca-Cola UNITED Dining Alcove offers dining options for students, faculty and staff, including Jamba Juice and Sandella’s Flatbread. UAB’s student-run investment fund, the Green & Gold Fund, will be housed in the new Chad Thomas Hagwood Finance Lab.
Blazer Pride Plaza, a large landscaped courtyard on the east side of the building, leads students to the main entrance of the Collat School of Business, while the main entrance to the HIIE will be on the northern side of the building.
The auditorium in the basement of the building has a FEMA-rated storm shelter that can accommodate more than 200 people in the event of severe weather.
Williams Blackstock and Robert A.M. Stern served as the architects of record on this project. Brasfield & Gorrie served as general contractor and self-performed all concrete work, including foundations, foundation walls and site hardscapes.