By Grant Welker
LOWELL -- Of all the new construction at UMass Lowell in recent years, none might better illustrate the university's move into the future than its new business-school building.
The Pulichino Tong Business Building, a ceremonial groundbreaking for which was held Friday, will replace the classic brick Eames Hall, one of the first two dorm buildings for the Lowell Textile Institute in the late 1940s. Its sister building, Smith Hall, was taken down in 2011 to make way for the Mark and Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center.
The four-story, 52,000 square-foot building, slated to open in 2016, will join a wave of other new construction across UMass Lowell in recent years that has transformed the look of the university.
"We're not just building a new business building," said Carole Cornelison, the commissioner of the state Department of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, which helped fund the project. "We're laying the foundation for opportunity."
The eponymous donors are alumni John Pulichino, a 1967 UMass Lowell graduate, and his wife, Joy Tong. They previously established a namesake foundation for scholarships for the Manning School of Business, and have given more than $4 million.
Pulchino is the CEO of Group III International, a Florida company that designs, manufactures and markets travel gear. It has generated more than $600 million in sales in the past decade. Tong founded the company in 1984 and is its president and creative director.
"For us, as much as it is about the building, it's about the students," Pulichino said. "Our passion in life is to allow those who up to this stage in their lives have not been as successful as we have, and to give back."
The business school is currently located in two nearby buildings, Falmouth Hall and Pasteur Hall.
UMass Lowell has had a flurry of construction in recent years.
Between August 2012 and August 2013, the university opened six new buildings: the Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center; the Health and Social Sciences Building; two new residents halls, University Suites and Riverview Suites; and parking garages on the North and South campuses.
University Crossing, which will include a bookstore, club and organization space and more at the former St. Joseph's Hospital site, is slated to open in time for the start of next school year.
Along with the new business building, those projects cost a combined $353 million.
The university also announced last month it will occupy two floors of the revitalized Freudenberg Building in the Hamilton Canal District for an expansion of its Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center, known as M2D2.
Those who spoke at Friday's ceremony, which included university and city officials and local legislators, talked about strides the university has made and the way it has transformed the look of its three campuses. Improvements on university property has also brought revitalization to adjacent neighborhoods, Mayor Rodney Elliott said.
"As the university goes, so the city goes," Elliott said. "And as the city goes, so the university goes."