The Fuqua School of Business’ R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center is undergoing major renovations and an expansion to provide it with a “distinctive, enduring design.”

Serving primarily as residential space for students in Fuqua’s executive education and weekend MBA programs, the Science Drive building was closed in January and is expected to reopen in January 2017, six months later than originally planned due to delays in the permitting process. Along with renovations to the existing building, there are plans to build a five-story addition that will offer new guest rooms, more conference space, a business center and restaurants.

“The Thomas Center has been Fuqua’s 'front door' to many visitors and students over the years,” Jill Tomlinson, associate dean for finance and administration at Fuqua, wrote in an email. “As we look to the future, the hotel and conference center will be positioned as a world-class facility.”

She noted that the project will increase the Center’s visibility from Science Drive and provide it with a new front door, reception area and lobby.

When completed, the facility will include 85 new guest rooms—bringing the total to 200—as well as an additional 11,350 square feet of meeting space and connecting corridors between the new building and the existing one. The renovation will also include updates to existing rooms to improve energy efficiency. The $47 million project will seek LEED Silver certification according to the Facilities Management project summary. Much of the furniture from the original building has been reused at other sites around Duke or donated to the local drug abuse recovery program Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, or TROSA.

Built in 1989 when Fuqua’s executive education programs were relatively new, the Thomas Center experienced construction-related issues that required numerous repairs early on, Tomlinson explained. Discussions about potential renovations began in 2000 and have continued ever since.

“We have waited a very long time for this renovation to come to fruition,” she wrote.

Rabun Architects, the firm responsible for the facility's design, also designed the 2005 renovations to the Washington Duke Inn.

Since the center’s closure in January, Fuqua has worked with the WaDuke as well as Bon Appétit at the Lafe P. and Rita D. Fox Student Center to accommodate guests. Upon reopening, the WDI Durham Management Company will assume responsibility for the site's operations.