LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 29, 2022) — A transformative gift of more than $5.2 million will create a new home for the University of Kentucky’s College of Design and an exciting entry point into Lexington.
The gift from Gray Inc., which includes companies related to engineering, design, construction, automation, manufacturing and real estate, and members of the Gray family, was approved by the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees in today’s meeting.
This donation will allow UK to realize a renovation and revitalization of the Reynolds Building — a former tobacco warehouse that has been empty for several years — into a vibrant new space for Design’s five programs. It would be the first time that the college’s students, faculty, staff and programs would be housed in one location — a move that will also allow for even greater collaboration between the college and other programs across the campus, including Landscape Architecture, which will co-habitate with Design in the new structure and Biomedical Engineering, which will share studio space and curriculum with the new Product Design program.
In collaboration with UK’s College of Engineering and the Gatton School of Business and Economics, the College of Design also will work with faculty leadership to establish a design-build curriculum.
The property — to be named the Gray Design Building — sits facing Broadway on one side and the UK campus on the other, making it a landmark entry into Lexington.
Slated to break ground later this year, the project has been designed by internationally renowned architecture practice Studio Gang over the last several years, and when complete, will represent one of the most significant examples on the UK campus of “adaptive reuse” — the idea of using preservation and sustainability techniques and efforts to repurpose older, historic facilities in new ways.
Gray Inc. is the owner of Gray Construction, a family-owned business that is considered one of the pre-eminent design-build companies in the country. The family has deep roots in Lexington and the Commonwealth and is recognized as an industry leader in design-build.
“This gift will give us the opportunity to transform a historic but terribly stressed building into the Gray Design Building — home of UK’s College of Design,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “It sits at a critical nexus between campus and community. Appropriate for a College of Design, the facility will be a stunning entry point to UK. It is exactly the kind of project Secretary (and former Mayor Jim) Gray and I have discussed often over the years — a marriage of form and function that will enhance what we do academically, in service to our state and as a symbol of the inextricable links between Lexington and the university.”
Gray is currently secretary of the state’s Transportation Cabinet. That followed two four-year terms as Lexington’s mayor, during which investment in cutting-edge design and reuse projects — such as the recently unveiled Central Bank Civic Center — were a priority.
“As a family and on behalf of our team members, it’s the privilege of a lifetime to make this investment in UK’s College of Design, which includes the School of Architecture where we’ve had a special kinship for almost 50 years,” said Jim Gray. Franklin Gray, a graduate of the college, added, “We’re honored to play a role in expanding UK’s educational influence across the state and in helping to attract the best students, faculty and staff.”
“At a time when reinventing existing buildings is essential to conserve resources and decarbonize, this generous gift allows us to realize the transformation of the disused Reynolds building into a vibrant hub for cross-disciplinary design education,” said Studio Gang Founding Partner Jeanne Gang. “It is particularly meaningful that this gift comes from the Gray family, as they have been passionate champions of the value that great design can bring for both the people and the city of Lexington.”
Dean Mitzi Vernon is inspired to see this yearslong vision finally come to life, thanks to major efforts by Assistant Vice President for Philanthropy Don Witt. “The Gray gift is one that will continue to give over generations of students, coming at just the right moment as the College of Design expands,” she said. “More importantly the gift allows us to enlist the open warehouse space and embrace our role as preservationists and cross-disciplinarians, taking on the urgency of contemporary issues of climate change and inequality.”
K Norman Berry Associate Architects, which has a vested interest in the College of Design, served as the Architect of Record. “KNBA has been a champion of the College of Design for over 50 years, beginning with partner emeritus Norman Berry as a member of the inaugural graduating class of 1965. Since that time, over 40 UK graduates have been valuable team members of KNBA, including all current firm leadership,” said Bob Haffermann, AIA, managing principal of K Norman Berry Associate Architects.
Capilouto said the College of Design project will be the first one on the UK campus to take advantage of the asset preservation fund established by the state legislature in its recently completed session.
The recently adopted two-year budget for the state of Kentucky created an asset preservation pool with more than $154 million of state bonds — that will be matched in part by UK — to renew historic academic facilities in our campus core.
Gray Inc. is the guiding company for 12 separate Gray operating companies. These 12 Gray companies have a strategic presence in select locations in North America and Europe individually or collectively providing engineering, design, and construction, along with digital, equipment manufacturing, and real estate services. Consistently ranked as a leader in the industry, Gray focuses on the following markets for domestic and international customers: Food & Beverage, Manufacturing, Automotive, Distribution, Mission Critical and Commercial. Founded in 1960, Gray’s robust offering enables the company to create one-of-a-kind solutions at the highest levels of customization, delivering unmatched precision and partnership to some of the world’s most sophisticated organizations. For more information on Gray, visit www.gray.com and follow us @Gray.
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.