Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson Tuesday night updated city leaders and community members on plans to transform the Richmond campus. Benson presented at the Town and Gown Vision 2020 Forum.
President Benson's presentation began with a look at regional academic and economic statistics. He told those gathered at the EKU Center for the Arts that Eastern needs to carve out a niche. Two major components of EKU's plans moving forward are renovation and construction. Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes says it doesn't help the university if the city lags behind. "You know I'm hoping it will create some excitement in the community and get us doing some things ourselves that will blend with them," said Barnes. "That way in 20 years down the road, we're all in harmony together."
City Commissioner Jason Morgan asked about opportunities for public-private partnerships which might benefit the city. He cited, as an example, potential investment in the historic Glyndon Hotel site on Main Street. "These events, inviting us to participate, wanting our feedback, committing to working groups and involving the city goes a long way to improving those relationships," said Morgan.
Benson says part of the push for renovation and new construction comes from a need to be competitive. "We are trying to keep up with all of the state institutions," Benson said. "You know what Western's done. I was in Morehead just two months ago and what President Wayne Andrews and his colleagues are doing out there is going to kind of ratchet up the competition. We're chasing the same kind of demographic of high school student."
Part of the formula includes fundraising. Benson says the school is preparing to launch its largest capital campaign ever.