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A&T breaks ground on new engineering building


Former site of the Hayes-Taylor YMCA, which moved to its new location on Gate City Boulevard in 2015. Photo by Charles Edgerton/Carolina Peacemaker

It was a bittersweet ending to the former Hayes Taylor YMCA building as dozens gathered to say goodbye on October 29.

Tuesday’s event served as the demolition of the Y, located at the corner East Market and Dudley streets, and the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Engineering Research and Innovation Complex (ERIC) for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

“We’re going to replace this corner with something that’s going to change the world,” said Andrew Perkins, A&T Associate Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance/Facilities.

Dignitaries from the university, the state of North Carolina, City of Greensboro, and the Hayes-Taylor YMCA recalled the shared history between the largest HBCU in the country and the nearly 80-year-old building.

“We understand that we are building upon history, love, investment and the energy of so many,” said Robin Coger, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering (COE).

Hayes Taylor, opened in 1939, was the first Greensboro Y opened to African Americans. The community sold fish dinners, raising $5,000 for purchase of the land. Local textile tycoon, Caesar Cone II, donated $50,000 for the construction of the YMCA, which was named in honor of his butler, Andrew Taylor, and his cook, Sallie Hayes.

The Y served as a significant meeting place for Black residents during the Jim Crow era and also provided shelter to African American leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., because they were not permitted to stay at White establishments.

“It’s not without a tingle of regret that we have to tear the old girl down,” said Larry Burnett, executive director of Hayes-Taylor, who recalled volunteering at the Y when he was an A&T student in 1979. “But now, thanks to A&T, we have a state-of-the-art Y to serve our community better.”

The Hayes-Taylor Y moved to its current location on East Gate City Boulevard in 2015. N.C. A&T bought the old facility in 2011 for $4 million. In the 2016 election, North Carolina voters approved a $2 billion Connect NC bond that included a $90 million provision for N.C. A&T, which is helping fund the construction of the ERIC.

Faculty, staff and students all had input on the design of the 130,000-square-foot building that will be a four-story, glass-paneled facility with engineering research labs and faculty offices, and will include a maker’s space on the first floor so students can work on their own inventions.

University leaders say the ERIC will help increase engineering instruction and research capacities, expand university partnerships with local and regional industries and create job opportunities that directly benefit the entire community. N.C. A&T is the largest producer of African American engineers and African American women engineers in the country.

“North Carolina A&T is a leader in STEM education, and our history in engineering starts with our inception in 1891,” said A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “The ERIC is a continued investment in our students to transform their lives and careers in the future.”

Demolition of the old YMCA should be complete in about three weeks. Construction on the ERIC will begin in the spring, and the complex is scheduled to open in late 2021.