September 1, 2016

One word typified almost every visitor’s response to the Aug. 17 opening of USF’s downtown campus —“Wow!”—usually followed by an enthusiastic thumbs-up as a vote of confidence in the campus’ future.

Alumni, business partners and interested, approving neighbors and friends converged on the corner of Ewing and West Berry streets on a warm, muggy Tuesday for a block party and tours launching USF Downtown. Students filled the spaces for the first time on Aug. 29.

From the muted grays and classic features of the Historic Woman’s Club to the coffee bar and ticker technology of the USF Business Center to the vibrant reds and oranges in the Music Technology wing, the facilities impressed those touring. The preservation and renovation of the historic Fort Wayne Chamber and Scottish Rite Center as education spaces enshrine a shared past, and it wasn’t lost on visitors.

Abby Wilder of Thrivent Financial weighed in while admiring the restored Fort Wayne Woman’s Club in the former Chamber building. “I’m so excited to see this architecture preserved to use. I love downtown and the fact that the community can come in.” She also noted the benefit of the Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts collaboratorium. “In the business world, you have to be a smart analyst, but it’s also about how to network and build partnerships, and that’s what this collaborative space does. Businesses are invited in, can work with the students and there’s really no reason for the grads to leave.”

The Business Center drew comments from Mary Flaig and Laura Dwire. “It has beautiful study and lounge spaces. I also liked areas where they could work as a group,” Flaig said. “I love the coffee shop,” Dwire added. “I work right across the street at St. Joe Community Health Foundation, and this will be a great meeting space for us.”

“I am absolutely so excited for USF,” said alumna Patricia Booker, taking in the new Music Technology area. “I’ve watched it grow, and I’m excited for Fort Wayne. I came here as a child to the young people’s concerts when the Philharmonic played here. I am so impressed with Sister Elise’s vision as university president.”

Joan McMillan, a resident of nearby historic Williams-Woodlan neighborhood, said, “I was just really curious about what it would look like. I’m excited that it brings young people down here. Word will get out.”

But USF students and staff registered perhaps the most excitement. “How about this, huh?” an exultant Mark Everetts, Music Technology studio manager, posed to a visitor in the state-of-the art recording studio.

Sophomore Music Technology majors McKayla Nevers and Lucas Norton expressed their pride and enthusiasm for the new resources. “It’s such an amazing opportunity moving from the North Campus out here, you can’t even compare it,” Nevers said.

“The biggest change is the mix and edit suites, which take that task out of the studio,” Norton said. “We used to have ensembles practicing in the studio, which left limited studio time. This is one of the best facilities from New York to Los Angeles. It competes with Berkeley and Ball State, and could be the best in the country. We’re expecting an exponential growth in the next three to five years.