A planned $5.2 million expansion will be an asset to the University of Akron’s College of Business Administration, while also being a boost to downtown and the larger community, officials said.

On Tuesday, UA broke ground on the two-story, 15,000-square-foot addition to the college’s building on South Broadway, on the western edge of downtown, across from St. Bernard Catholic Church.

The addition — which will house the college’s Professional Development Center — is being financed primarily with money from private donors.

The addition is the first major construction project at the business college since it opened the Broadway building in 1991.

It will house the school’s professional development programs that provide “experiential learning — learning by doing,” said Ravi Krovi, dean of the college.

The new space will boast lots of glass, giving the building a more transparent feel, and will add vibrancy downtown, UA officials and others at the groundbreaking ceremony said.

The college building is at Broadway and University Avenue. The addition will be on the north side of the building, along University Avenue. Green space, with landscaping designed to invite people to hang out, will hug the Broadway side of the addition.

A statue of Simon Perkins, a 19th-century civic leader and son of one of Akron’s founders, currently is in the landscaped plaza on the building’s north side, but it will be moved to make way for the addition.

Akron City Council approved relocating the statue from Grace Park, north of the university, to its current spot in 1999. The statue, which was then 104 years old, had been vandalized at the park.

The plan is to have the addition complete in time for fall 2019 classes.

Professional development training focuses on leadership, business communication, collaboration and teamwork, as well as understanding different cultures, Krovi, the dean, said in an interview shortly before the groundbreaking ceremony.

“We kind of consider a lot of that to be what you can’t necessarily teach in the classroom,” he said.

Now, with the center there will be a “one-stop place whether you want to do internships, whether you want to study abroad, or whether you want to practice your elevator pitch,” he said, noting the center will include a “presentation studio” where students can record their pitch.

“Ultimately, our goal is to make students career ready and connected,” he said. “Their careers start when they join the College of Business Administration, not after they graduate.”

Steven Hobson, 21, an information systems management student at the college, said putting the programs all in one place will make it easier for students to get involved in professional development and “will help push people toward success.”

Akron City Council President Margo Sommerville told those gathered for the ceremony that the groundbreaking marks “another chapter of this long-standing collaboration and success” between the city and the university.

Suzie Graham, president and CEO of the nonprofit Downtown Akron Partnership, said the addition creates another link between the university and downtown.

Key project donors include Kenneth E. Taylor, president of Ohio CAT, a top Caterpillar construction equipment dealer headquartered in Broadview Heights, and an honorary alumnus of the college; John Rohrer, a co-founder of Rohrer Corp., the Wadsworth-based paperboard and plastic-packaging company, and his wife, Joanne, who previously was Rohrer treasurer; longtime UA benefactors Roger Read and his late wife, Judy; and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Mark Belgya, vice chair and chief financial officer at J.M. Smucker Co. in Orr­ville, and his wife, Beverly, donated money for professional development programs. Both are graduates of the college.

About 2,250 students were enrolled in the college for fall semester 2017. That’s roughly 10 percent of UA’s total student enrollment of about 22,000 last fall. The college opened in 1951.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook at www.facebook.com.