For years, Southern University President-Chancellor Ray Belton wanted a dramatic gateway to the university at the foot of the Harding Boulevard Overpass.

Belton said he saw the gateway as a way to bridge Southern and North Baton Rouge and establish Harding Boulevard as a “pathway to prosperity.”

“You could pass right by Southern University and not know the brilliance and the excellence that was on the horizon,” he said.

On Tuesday, Southern hosted an event to discuss the gateway – two days before Belton retires as chancellor. Bids are being taken on the $1 million structure and it should be completed in a year to a year and a half, said Ken Dawson, the school’s director of facilities planning.

“When you drive here, you know you have arrived at a university that has arrived,” Dawson said.

The gateway has been in the works for a long time. Tuesday's speakers gave several different dates for how far back the project goes: 2004 (when Manning Architects first got involved), 2015 (when Belton became president-chancellor) and 2019 (when Belton asked the Southern University System Foundation Board of Trustees to get involved in the planning effort).

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"Good things come to those who wait," said Dominic Willard, a principal with New Orleans-based Manning Architects.

The gateway will include metal trusses, painted Jaguar blue. They will be connected to foundations that feature the logos and seal of the university. There will be metal panels on the sides of the foundations, that can be used to tell the story of the university or serve as a donor wall.

“It’s contemporary in design, but also timeless,” Willard said.

The gateway is one of several construction projects in the pipeline for Southern. Willard is designing a $50 million STEM Science Building that will be built on the former site of the Architecture West building. Plans are in the works for a new home for the College of Business, a new Student Life Center and additional dorms. All of these developments have been outlined in an ambitious campus master plan Southern released in October.

“We produced this instrument to guide Southern going forth,” Belton said.


Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.

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