– Reporter, Louisville Business First

After $80 million and two years of work, the University of Louisville significantly increased its classroom capacity with the opening of the Belknap Academic Building on Tuesday.

University leaders, including President Neeli Bendapudi, marked the opening of the 165,000-square-foot, five-floor building with a ribbon-cutting event.

The building is nestled between the Shumaker Research Building to the north and Lutz Hall to the south, near the intersection South Brook Street and University Boulevard.

Citing a study from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education study, Bendapudi said the building, which houses mostly classroom space, is a direct response to a finding by the council that U of L has the largest classroom space shortage of any public university in the state.

The Kentucky General Assembly approved and issued bonds to fund the building in 2014, as Louisville Business First previously reported.

Construction began in the summer of 2016. Although major construction is complete, crews are making finishing touches, such as installing technology hardware and touch-up paint.

Classes begin Aug. 20.

(U of L also recently celebrated the completion of a $40 million expansion of the Swain Student Center.)

The building has more than 50 rooms, according to a news release from the school. Interim Provost Beth Boehm said at the media event that these include 20 classrooms, 14 science labs, 11 group study rooms, seven seminar rooms and four learning labs.

The building will primarily serve undergrads who are in the College of Arts and Sciences. The anthropology, biology, chemistry and physics programs have dedicated labs in the new building.

The fifth floor houses mechanical and other systems for the building.

The first floor opens to a large common area with informal meeting and seating spaces. It also features a large staircase with amphitheater-style benches that use reclaimed wood from the floor of the old Crawford Gym basketball court. The Crawford Gym was built in the 1960s and was razed to make room for the new building. It previously was a practice facility for the U of L basketball and swimming programs.

One thing that is absent from building is a traditional large lecture hall with auditorium seating. The first floor does have large classroom spaces. But they have tables that group the students into pods to allow them to work together more easily.

All classrooms, especially the larger classrooms and seminar rooms, are replete with monitors, projectors and computers for students and instructors to use. The pods have several monitors for student use.

Boehm said the staff has been training for two years on how best to use the state-of-the-art classrooms.

The second floor of the building has several classrooms and study rooms. The first and second floors also house university offices that support student success. Specifically, the building houses the Student Success Center, which consolidates tutoring, mentoring and advisory services in a central location. The second floor also has a computer lab.

The third floor has group study areas and several lab spaces. The fourth floor has classrooms of several different sizes.