UAB breaks ground for new Collat School of Business and Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship building

Construction is set to begin Dec. 19.
Written by: Katherine Shonesy
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University of Alabama at Birmingham officials and Birmingham business leaders broke ground today for the new building that will house the Collat School of Business and Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Community leaders including Charles Collat, Mayer Electric chairman emeritus, Ed Aldag of Medical Properties Trust, and Billy Harbert of BL Harbert International were in attendance to help shovel the first pile of dirt at the site, ceremoniously kicking off construction of the project, which is expected to officially begin Dec. 19, lasting 18 months.

“We’re excited today,” said Eric Jack, Ph.D., dean of the Collat School of Business. “We believe that, when completed, this state-of-the-art facility will truly allow us to transform what we do at UAB. This new building, where business students can meet with others from across campus to collaborate, will enhance students’ ability to participate in hands-on work on intellectual property owned by the university, to write business plans, to start companies — what a wonderful, bold idea that we can use to help contribute to creating an innovative Birmingham community.”

collat iie renderingThe new building will provide adequate space for growth of the Collat School of Business and Harbert IIE through creating multidimensional learning spaces that include breakout rooms for team projects, engaging space for entrepreneurial projects, classrooms designed for team-based learning, a high-tech trading and finance lab, labs for behavioral research and sales presentations, a three-story atrium optimal for social interactions and leadership activities, career services space, and study rooms for students.

“By housing these two entities under the same roof, this facility will be a new home for innovation on our campus, and will play a future role in the growth of UAB and the growth of innovation and technology in Birmingham,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “We want to express our deep gratitude to our generous donors who have partnered with us to make this facility possible.”

Gifts given by local businesses such as the Joy and Bill Harbert Foundation, Medical Properties Trust, Regions Bank, and Kassouf & Co. exemplify the support of the community in furthering this project, which will be the cornerstone of efforts to expand technology commercialization to attain positive impacts on economic development for the community, state and beyond.

“We want to give back to the community in appreciation for these gifts,” said Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., executive director for Harbert IIE. “By turning UAB’s intellectual property and know-how developed by our students, faculty and staff into successful licenses and business ventures, we are going to have a tremendous impact on Birmingham and the state. I am so very confident that we’re going to be able to do this because of the wealth of talent we have in our faculty and students who wake up every day to advance research at UAB that is at the cutting edge of science and technology.”

Located along the north side of University Boulevard between 12th and 13th streets south, the building will be designed to attract and support the next generation of undergraduate and graduate students with the goal of facilitating a sense of community, affiliation and connection to UAB through modern, collaborative and business-specific learning areas. It will also allow the university to recruit topnotch students and faculty, as well as further innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities.

It will consist of approximately 110,000 gross square feet of space to house administrative and student function space for the Collat School of Business and Harbert IIE, as well as the Center for Sales Leadership, the Healthcare Leadership Academy and the Regions Institute for Financial Education. Completion of this project will allow these cross-discipline entities to co-locate in the same facility, fostering increased collaboration and forming a bridge between undergraduate and graduate students and the marketplace. 

From an exterior perspective, the plan for the overall architecture of the building is in keeping with the recently completed Hill Student Center, featuring a combination of traditional building materials and contemporary building elements.

The building will be four stories in total, with a primarily traditional brick enclosure and conventional windows on the western and eastern elevations, while the northern and southern elevations will be primarily glass storefront.

A large landscaped courtyard on the east side of the building will lead students to the main entrance of the Collat School of Business, while the main entrance to the Harbert IIE will be on the northern side of the building.

Williams Blackstock Architects of Birmingham and Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York City are serving as the architects of record on this project. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, has been awarded the facility’s construction contract.

For more information about how to support the Collat School of Business and the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, visit or contact David I. Allen, senior director of Development, at 205-996-5399 or