ST. PETERSBURG – Everyone’s talking about the new St. Petersburg College (SPC) Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. Midtown Center. It’s located at 1300 22nd St. S, and is set to become yet another notch in the belt of those working to revitalize the Midtown area and bring back the fervor of the once bustling 22nd Street Corridor.
In the heart of the Midtown community, the majestic building looms over the palm trees lining its perimeter. The glass walls along one side setting the stage for learning in full view of the community.
“He wanted to see learning happening,” said architect Chad Jones regarding SPC President Dr. William Law’s vision for the project. Jones works with Harvard Jolly Architecture, a Florida based firm housing offices in seven locations throughout the state.
So that’s what Jones created. Instead of seeing a replica of an old building that could fit anywhere on one of the many SPC campuses spread throughout Pinellas County, the Midtown Center is unique in its conception and was meticulously blueprinted to fit into a traditional and historic neighborhood while also portraying a technologically savvy side.
“When I take a step back and look at the design I think it really does fit into the context of what 22nd Street is trying to do,” said Jones. “It speaks to the history of what used to be there, yet at the same time is very fresh.”
Five years in the making, SPC’s new learning center has been a pivotal turning point in Jones’ career and a huge learning experience as well. At just 26 when first taking on the project, Jones found himself in the lead role flying solo as he drew up the plans, worked with contractors and coordinated with other consultants.
“I basically took it from beginning to end,” he said proud of the outcome and for the opportunity to expand his knowledge base in previously untested waters.
Adept in many areas of the construction process, Jones previously worked on the SPC Ethics and Social Science building in Clearwater as the project manager. He also prepared the construction documents. It was similar in size and nature to what everyone wanted to see constructed in Midtown, so Jones felt confident in his abilities to pull off a spectacular building again.
However until its completion, he didn’t quite realize the impact it would make for long-term residents.
“I was so caught up in the whole process and trying to make sure it came out great, it wasn’t until the grand opening that I was able to step back and see what it actually meant to the community,” explained Jones. He thought the turnout of some 1,500 people was one of the best he has ever seen. “That was very eye opening and touching just seeing that.”
Along the way Jones ran into situations that required additional assistance. He admits working with contractors was a bit challenging at the start. “Just having the contractor understand my vision and what I’m looking for and being able to have him replicate it was the biggest challenge in the whole thing,” Jones said.
But through it all he had someone to bounce his questions off of. His associate Ward Friszolowski was a sort of mentor heading out to the job site meetings to assist with the process, or stopping by to take a look and help Jones decipher his next move.
“I leaned on him a lot,” said Jones who relied heavily on Friszolowski’s guidance, expertise and experience. “It was invaluable; he was a great guy in helping me understand.”
Although Jones resided in St. Petersburg in the beginning phases of the project, he currently calls Orlando home. He tirelessly commuted the roughly 200 mile round trip to oversee the completion of the Douglas Jamerson Jr. Midtown Center and couldn’t be more overjoyed with the people he met along the way.
He sat on the Board of Directors for a local charter school situated near the site. He would take students out to the site to get a behind the scenes look and generate interest in a possible college choice for them after graduation.
“A lot of them had never seen anything like that,” said Jones who recognizes that most of the students he came in contact with live in the community. “This is something that’s going to have a big impact going forward.”
Working with the folks at SPC was also a great experience for Jones. He credited Law for his commitment to ensuring a building to the community that is awesome to behold. “I think they allowed a lot of latitude that we wouldn’t have received from another client or another owner, and I think that’s because they wanted it to be something special for the community.”
These days Jones still has his nose to the grindstone. He’s currently working at Harvard Jolly’s Orlando office where he has his hands on a couple of projects for the Orange County Public Schools. With a new wife and a baby on the way, Jones is looking forward to fatherhood and the opportunity to build again in the St. Petersburg area.
Beginning this fall, SPC will offer certificates in advanced manufacturing, clinical medical assisting, computer support and early childhood education. Associate in science degrees are offered in entrepreneurship, human services and associate in arts degrees will also be offered.
Classes begin Mon., Aug. 17, so hurry and apply! Go to www.spcollege.edu for more information.