As part of Lehigh's Path to Prominence initiative to add more students and scholars and spark innovation, the College of Business is proceeding with plans to build a 74,000-square-foot building catty-corner to the Rauch Business Center.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the plans for the construction of the New Business Building are moving forward. The Board of Trustees gave final approval in February 2020. We anticipated site clearance to begin early June 2020, however, COVID-19 intervened and on-campus construction was temporarily paused.
The timeline for the project has been adjusted, and the site clearance is now planned to begin March 2021 with the construction start date now set for April 2021. Building occupancy is planned for the start of the academic year of August 2022. Of course, this timeline assumes no further construction delays resulting from the pandemic.
"We are poised to take off as one of the nation's leading business schools," said Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business. "To do that, we must compete for the best students and the best faculty. This new building will not only allow us to expand, it will give us the opportunity to teach in innovative and technologically sophisticated classrooms. It will facilitate faculty/student and, just as importantly, student/student learning interactions."
Since the Rauch Business Center opened in 1991, the College of Business has seen a 43 percent increase in enrollment and a 38 percent increase in faculty. New programs and courses of study have since been added, including interdisciplinary initiatives, a FinTech minor and a new executive education program.
"Rauch is one of our most heavily used buildings for undergraduates," said Lehigh University Architect and Associate Vice President Brent Stringfellow. "It's at the limits of its capacity right now. It's pretty clear, just from a functional point of view, that expansion is necessary."
The plans call for the construction of the three-story, four-floor structure at Packer Avenue between Taylor and Webster streets. The site now holds a parking lot and office buildings.
"For the College of Business to be able to progress in its goals, it really needs this space that's more attuned to its current needs," Stringfellow said.
The new building will have several signature spaces, including the Vistex Institute for Executive Learning and Research, the Rauch Media and Communications Lab, a behavioral lab that will allow for observation and subject interviews, a business innovation/incubator space for entrepreneurial exploration, and an expanded financial services lab with a trading room. The building also will house the MBA program for graduate students.
In addition, the new structure will have tech-ready classrooms geared toward analytics, an expansive lobby and two terraces that will provide gathering areas for conferences, events and presentations.
"We're looking for a building that fits in with the character of the campus and ties together with the current business school," Stringfellow said. "We're all excited about it. We have a good project here and one that ties into Lehigh's overall efforts to enhance its ability to serve its students and support the work of its faculty."