The University of Kentucky has officially unveiled a jewel in the heart of its campus called the Cornerstone, a mixed-use facility and part of its Smart Campus Initiative it hopes will provide the student body and Lexington community with a place to learn, innovate and have fun.
The striking creation includes every higher ed institution’s dream – a lot more parking – as well as more education space and retail space. A Kentucky digital blue-screen tower frames the $34 million block structure that will become a meeting spot for those seeking a bite to eat, those looking to innovate and those interested in video games.
Among the highlights are a 100-seat esports theater and gaming facility, a multi-purpose and flexible space for creating and collaborating and several retail and dining options in its Cornerstone Exchange, which includes the campus’ first microbrewery, Ethereal Brewing, and the first restaurant to open, A Cup of Common Wealth coffee shop.
“Cornerstone Exchange started with the idea that the Lexington community deserved a collaborative space for exchanging innovative ideas and creating connections over local food and drinks,” said Spencer Hyatt, vice president of Signet Real Estate Group, which forged a public-private partnership with the University on the project. “The Exchange is the perfect melting pot to bring together successful local Lexington-based restaurants, including coffee, desserts and brewery, while simultaneously showcasing UK Cornerstone’s innovation space, esports lounge and theater.”
Several of the other retail stops are set to open next year, including a poke bowl restaurant and a pizzeria. The timing isn’t ideal, during the COVID-19 pandemic, but university officials stress that social distancing measures that exist across campus will be in place in the Cornerstone spaces and expect the foot traffic to be good.
Like most colleges and universities that are seeking to expand their space, Kentucky identified and acquired this piece of land central to campus in 2017. It began the development with parking, student housing and a Target on the backside of the facility. The addition of the Cornerstone adds 900 additional parking spaces as well as signature components: a flexible innovation space and the Federal Credit Union Esports Lounge and Theater.
The innovation area, at 23,000 square feet, features a highly adaptable open floorplan and the latest in technology to allow for creative thought, entrepreneurial work and community building. It is open to students and to the Lexington community to rent out and the university expects it will be an area that hosts speakers for small events.
The esports lounge builds on UK’s foray into gaming as it continues to leverage its partnership with industry leader Gen.G. Among the highlights are its theater and 50 gaming setups that can be used for competitions or friendly battles.
“Our credit union’s investment in UK’s new esports program represents our commitment to innovate and cultivate new technologies and ideas for a large group of students,” said David Kennedy, University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union’s president and CEO. “While typical sports teams are limited to a smaller population of the student body, we view esports as an opportunity for all students to participate.”
Kentucky’s Smart Campus Initiative is a three-year project underway that is focused on delivering the latest technology and enhancing student wellbeing and community. The Cornerstone, an iPad and Apple Smart keyboard deliver to incoming freshmen, app development and other smart resources are an effort to help boost enrollment and retain current students.