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Centennial Campus Documentation Project

History of Centennial Campus


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Special Collections Research Center

Centennial Campus Documentation Project

The History of North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus

By: Paige Meszaros, 2004

This History was commissioned by the Centennial Campus Partnership Office for the Centennial Campus Twentieth Anniversary Celebration

"The real action at today's top universities takes place at the interface- where ideas, people and technology from industry, government and universities come together to solve problems and create new products, better service, and smarter workers. Centennial Campus is Master Planned to use that interface to create a win-win environment for NC State and its partners."[1]


North Carolina State University was founded in 1887 as a land-grant institution intended to be used to educate the working classes of the post-Civil War South. The Morrill Act was responsible for implementing Land Grant Universities around North Carolina.[2] While at the time these institutions were intended to respond the needs of an Industrial Revolution, today, North Carolina State University is responding to an intellectual revolution in the sciences and technology. The Morrill Act followed in the tradition of the Land-Grant College Act passed by the United State Congress in 1862. This legislation provided for, "the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college (in each state) where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific or classical studies to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts in order to promote liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life.' "[3]

In 1984, the university was pushed into the twenty-first century by a second land grant deriving from a bi-partisan effort to reallocate sections of land in west Raleigh. Resulting from decisions by the State of North Carolina, the administrations of Governors James B. Hunt and James G. Martin, a new portion of land was transferred to NCSU. Hunt said, when reflecting in 2004 on the experience, "I'd been [thinking] so much about how to compete with the world, how we transform our economy, knowing that universities have to be the key to that, and in particular North Carolina State University. So I decided, 'Listen, we ought to have a place where we can have business and universities and the best thinkers all working together, working alongside each other, parking in the same parking lots, having lunch together.' "[4] The origins of the idea of Centennial Campus being a place for students, faculty, industry, and government to live, learn, work, and play together were evident at this early stage of development.[5]

The land on which Centennial Campus stands today originally belonged to the Dorothea Dix Hospital. In 1848, with the help of democratic leader of the North Carolina House, James C. Dobbin, the Memorial Bill was passed to establish land for a mental asylum in North Carolina. By 1849, state money was appropriated and construction began in 1850. A site was selected in west Raleigh and the State Asylum built there became known as "Dix Hill" in honor of Dorothea's grandfather Elijah. The project was completed in 1856.[6]

The area of Centennial Campus and the Dix hospital are known as the Lake Raleigh Basin. In 1865, large portions of the land were used for the encampments of 60,000 Union soldiers. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Dix property gradually swelled as more land was acquired through purchases from Raleigh residents. During the period of 1907-1972, the hospital used portions of the property for a group of 100 farmers called the Oak Colony. Growing fruits and vegetables and raising livestock was seen as an important form of therapy for these Dix residents.[7]

By 1974, the State of North Carolina transferred the property (which would later become Centennial Campus) to the Department of Agriculture, which used it to grow animal feed until 1985. Precursors to Centennial Campus existed on NCSU's main campus as early as the 1970s. Faculty and administrators actively recruited industry clients interested in research. Grants from groups such as the National Science Foundation helped fund scholarship in numerous departments. Until that time, the undeveloped land was used by local residents for a variety of activities including dog walking, jogging, four-wheel driving, cycling, hunting, picnicking, and horseback riding.

The land on which Centennial Campus has been developed is prime real estate in the heart of the city of Raleigh. It was clear in the early 1980s that NCSU's main campus had run out of space. Hardy Berry, Vice Chancellor for Communications articulated that thought in an interview with the press, "The University is bursting at the seams now, and is extremely cramped in every way- for housing, laboratory facilities, parking, offices, and classrooms."[8] Although many of those involved in NCSU's administration, local government, and state government were pleased with the land allocation, other, quite vocal groups protested. Chancellor Bruce Poulton, who oversaw the transfer, referred to it as a "benefaction" for the future of the university and the people of North Carolina.

On December 19, 1984, Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., in a public ceremony at the State Capitol, allotted the initial parcel of land totaling approximately 355 acres to NCSU. By February 1985, the parcel was enlarged by an additional 450 acres by Governor James G. Martin. The request for the second parcel of land was initiated by Bill Friday and would "be granted contingent upon NCSU developing a plan for use of all the land that would be acceptable to the Capital Planning Commission and would gain the approval of the Council of State."[9] This land, when totaled with later acquisitions by the university, equal more area than the original campus (approximately 1,000 acres). Today, NCSU is the largest university in the state system and the Centennial Campus, which has evolved from the second land grant to the school, is the major component of the school's future expansion.

From the very beginning of its history, even before Centennial Campus was truly conceived, the land transfer was steeped in controversy. Journalists and politicians rejected the move as, "...the arrogance of power that can come at the end of an administration."[10] This referred to the fact that the transfer took place on the tail end of Governor Hunt's first two-term administration in the mid-1980s. Others questioned the level at which the public had been consulted before the transfer and the level of effectiveness at which the land currently owned by NCSU was being used.

The transfer had been completed by referencing a rarely used state statute that allows the Secretary of Administration to exchange land between agencies under the governor's control. State Labor Commissioner in the mid-1980s, John Brooks, stated that the law that regulates the UNC university system declares that NCSU cannot be classified as a state agency and therefore could not receive the reallocation. Brooks had estimated that the original land grant to the university had a value of approximately $350 million. "When one state agency declares state property assigned to them as excess to their current needs and a second state agency needs the land for their legislatively approved mission, the Council of State has the legal authority to make the transfer BUT the state retains the ownership."[11]

The UNC system is regulated by the legislative branch of the government of North Carolina, while Governor Hunt represented the executive branch of North Carolina. Therefore, the original transfer of land was jeopardized by the decision to make the reallocation through the governor's office and not the State Legislature. Ultimately, however, Lacy H. Thornburg of the State Attorney General's office, who supervised the transfer, disagreed with Brooks and declared the transfer legal despite the fact that the Council of State had not been involved.[12]

Resistance from the Council of State was fierce because some members had intended to use the property to build a training school for vocational occupations. State Commissioner of Agriculture at the time, Jim Graham, wanted the land to be used for a new State Farmer's Market, food processing center, and distribution site. The City of Raleigh competed for the land in order to build residential or commercial structures that would bring in tax revenue. Eventually, the arguments of Governor Hunt, his staff, Chancellor Bruce Poulton, and other NCSU officials won out. " 'Expansion of the university's main campus [was] limited on the east, north, and west by fully developed property. Therefore, the only possible direction for expansion is to the south. The Dix property is the only property available for future expansion of the campus,' Hunt said."[13] Although the Hunt administration did not specify land use for NCSU, education and research purposes were always a part of the planning.

The North Carolina Alliance for the Mentally Ill was another group who questioned the reallocation of land to NCSU, but for very different reasons. Representatives of the organization argued that it was wrong to assume that the therapy provided to Dix patients by the farmland was no longer needed. They also questioned the level of commitment of the city of Raleigh and the State of North Carolina to providing improvements, modernization, and community support services to the mentally ill. In an editorial for the Raleigh Times newspaper, it is clear that some North Carolinians saw the land transfer as a personal attack, "to the families and friends of mentally ill persons this land giveaway is just one more cruel example of the apathy and callousness with which the mentally ill are regarded in North Carolina very substantial new state funding is urgently called for."[14]

All of the tension, which existed between city and state government in the capital city, was exacerbated in the 1980s as Raleigh's population and businesses boomed. Many residents, especially those on the western side of the city and close to downtown, resisted Centennial Campus. They argued that development stemming from the university was changing residential areas into urbanized places filled with traffic, pollution, parking zones, and construction.[15] Centennial could potentially house and employ two-thirds the number of individuals who worked downtown in the late 1980s, pump hundreds of millions of dollars annually into the local economy, enlarge the tax base of the area, all in a space ten times larger than Crabtree Valley Mall.[16] The biggest problem involved with the campus was traffic. City planners estimated that once a critical mass was reached on campus, potentially 100,000 cars a day would go in and out of the campus.[17]

The Centennial Campus project and the infrastructure necessary for its development only added to the fears and issues of longtime Raleigh natives. Vice Chancellor for Finance and Business, George Worsley, said, "You have to understand the fundamental philosophy by which the Centennial Campus plan developed. The foundation of that mixed-use campus came from a realization that there needed to be more cooperative effort between the university and industry."[18] The administration of NCSU believed that the concerns of residents could be resolved by the success of the project.

One method of doing this would be to focus on building road networks and alternative transportation to alleviate damage to residential areas. A people mover or monorail system could be used to connect main campus to Centennial Campus as well as to RDU International Airport and even downtown Durham and the Research Triangle Park. "A people mover is an automated transit system that provides frequent, high-speed service with one or more passenger cars that move along a fixed guideway or rail installed either on the ground or above ground."[19] To date, a mass transit system, other than main campus Wolfline bus routes, has not been built. Reasoning for this is that the population of staff and students at Centennial is not large enough to justify the expense yet. Approximately 700-800 students ride the bus from main campus to Centennial now.[20]

Monorail systems take up very little ground space, are more ecologically responsible, and have larger capacities than buses. A system in Raleigh could potentially handle approximately 15,000 passengers a day. In 1997, the estimated cost was $60 billion for construction and infrastructure. A maintenance cost of 3-5% of the capital cost would be approximately $3 million per year. The NCSU Student Senate endorsed a proposal for mass transit (beyond Wolfline) in 1991. A feasibility study completed in 1989 determined that the year 2000 would have been the ideal time to implement the plan. However, university and city planners continue to discuss options.

Some NCSU faculty were anything but enamored of the idea of Centennial Campus. Many attended public meetings and spoke out, voted not to move to the new campus (the entire faculty of the College of Textiles voted not to move to Centennial several years before their new facilities were built), and wrote editorials to the press. One Associate Professor of Design, Dennis Wood, wrote a scathing attack on the new campus, "we remain convinced that a better university does not demand the consumption of 800 acres of land that would better serve as a regional park; does not necessitate the further pollution of Raleigh with the exhaust of an added 100,000 vehicle trips per day; does not, perhaps even demand the employment and housing of an additional 20,000 students, researchers, and support staff."[21]

An Academic New City is Conceived

Once NCSU acquired the two tracts of land totaling 780 acres the task before the university now was development. A University Planning Committee was formed with the intention of collecting proposals from all areas of the university. Eighty-three proposals were submitted after a request was published in NCSU's Official Bulletin. The ideas were deliberated, consolidated, and then incorporated into a report that outlined five areas of potential development for NCSU. Many ideas focused on the concept of NCSU building a "technopolis" where a combination of the university, corporations, and government agencies worked together. These included the following:

  • graduate research centers which would explore topics such as biotechnology or public policy
  • academic support facilities such as libraries, computational centers or video classrooms
  • faculty/staff/student support facilities
  • public access uses that could include a visitors' center or a center for the performing arts
  • natural and recreational projects like parks or athletic fields[22]

The Master Plan for development and design began in 1985 when an interdisciplinary team of both internal and external professionals was assembled by the NCSU Board of Trustees. The resulting land-use plan was supported by the NCSU Board of Trustees, the North Carolina University System Board of Governors, the State Capital Municipal Government, and the North Carolina Council of State.[23] All of these diverse entities worked together to ensure that the land acquired by NCSU and later developed into the Centennial Campus would first and foremost support the academic mission of the university and serve the people of North Carolina.

The man selected to serve as a liaison between the new Centennial Campus and NCSU administration and the public at large was Claude E. McKinney. Serving first as the Dean of the School of Design at NCSU, his role slowly evolved from Special Assistant to Chancellor Bruce Poulton to Director of Centennial Campus until his retirement from the university in 2000. McKinney is a North Carolina native with degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. He was selected because of his experience with the development of an "academic new city" in Columbia, Maryland. Centennial Campus, was viewed by many, as NCSU's chance to build an academic new city of its very own. McKinney wrote of the North Carolina project, "The Centennial Campus continues to consume my attention. It is a project, which I believe, is of some significance for American higher education. This new academic community promises to be an important economic development initiative which will impact the entire state and far beyond."[24]

McKinney, more perhaps than any other individual associated with the Centennial Campus project, provided a vision of the future of education in the United States. He once wrote,

"I have felt for many years that 'the university' was an underutilized resource which American corporations and government have never engaged in a proper way. This is not only due to the reticence of the corporate and governmental reservations about how unresponsive universities might [choose] to be, it is the faculty in the universities who have been unwilling to allow themselves to apply their substantial intellectual talent to the needs of society. Perhaps this university's greatest opportunity will be in science and technology as we attempt to build a stronger position in international competition. We are clearly doing something different from any other university in this nation; that is, seeking to create an environment in which scientists from university, industry, and government can work together in close proximity; multi-disciplinary research, workforce partnership, and service are the benefits of such interaction."[25]

Carley Capital Group, a Washington based firm, was selected as the master developer for Centennial Campus in April 1986. Although the corporation sought partnerships in which it could buy portions of the land and pay costs of roads and utilities, NCSU chose to develop a contract in which the university controlled all of the land. Chancellor Bruce Poulton stated his rationalization for this point of view, "The university's expansion represents a quantum leap both in physical size and educational potential. To make sure the people of North Carolina derive full benefit, the property must remain in public hands and subject to public control."[26] The Carley Capital Group was assisted by the University Planning Committee who were administrators, faculty, students, and alumni organized to solicit ideas and proposals for development. Additionally, landscape architects and land planning groups (such as Land Design, Inc. of Charlotte), urban designers, engineers, transportation and traffic operations firms participated.

The Centennial Campus was off to a rocky start and further complications arose when journalists and faculty began to frame its development as a potential ethical conflict between academic honor and corporate growth. Questions were raised:

  • What risks will the university face, and what controls will it surrender, as it allows private development on public land?
  • Who will make sure that the public interest is served by the private development and research conducted there?
  • How will the new campus be governed and controlled- by private developers and contractors, or by the university?
  • Will the university's academic integrity be compromised by the expected increase in lucrative corporate research contracts?[27]

Planners were comforted, however, by the enormous oversight for the project due to its connection to a state institution. Carley Capital Group and its associates were monitored by the University's Board of Trustees (until the firm ended its association with the university in the late 1990s), the UNC Board of Governors, the City of Raleigh, and the State of North Carolina. The city of Raleigh provides water and sewer facilities while the university generates its own power and provides telecommunications. The state provides natural gas resources for Centennial Campus. In this way, groups from a local to a state level work together at the university.

Four basic principals guided the development of Centennial Campus. One, all projects would be mission-driven to reflect the research and teaching capabilities of university faculty. Two, the university would promote good environmental stewardship. Three, Centennial Campus would exemplify high design standards. Standards so high and innovative that the campus won a design award from the North Carolina chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1987.[28] Moreover, four, the new campus would have to be economically self-sustaining through a financially sound business model. Claude E. McKinney argues that Centennial Campus has benefited the citizens of North Carolina. He stated, "The State's Department of Economic and Community Development has brought potential clients to [Centennial], as have the Triangle Regional Association and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce," as evidence of those tangible benefits.[29]

The Master Plan has been organized around seven planning strategies with eight goals for implementation. The concepts evolving from a vision of a blend of private development, investment, and academic research. The strategies include the following:

  • To plan the campus through the approach of mixed-use clusters/academic neighborhoods and to structure and focus activity with an arrangement of buildings and open courtyards.
  • To base the planning of various networks of the campus on the natural characteristics of the site.
  • To establish character areas by matching prominent site features or well-defined land units with particular mixtures of users.
  • To emphasize accessible linkages and connectedness across the campus by giving special attention to the relationships between pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular networks, and their nodal intersections.
  • To promote the understanding that individual building projects are to respond to the context of the campus as a whole as expressed by the natural systems, circulation networks, academic neighborhoods, clusters, and character areas.
  • To relate the campus to the larger community through access, transportation, amenities, recreation, retail, and other uses.
  • To implement project design according to the specific Project Brief that will be prepared for each project and area development.[30]

The goals for the Master Plan are as follows:

  • To proactively assist the consultant architects and development partners in the design and development process.
  • To support the mission of the University.
  • To direct the establishment of an academic community which encourages communication, interaction, and collaboration between the University, private industry, and government.
  • To ensure that this community is integrated into the physical and social context of the City of Raleigh.
  • To establish a long-term commitment by the community to responsible stewardship of the land, of the built environment, and of the management of the design, and development process.
  • To provide a high-quality environment that supports communication among the campus participants.
  • To plan, build, and support campus development to encourage a high quality of life.
  • To fulfill the Physical Master Planning Goals approved by the University Trustees.[31]

The importance of harmony between architecture and the environment is evident in the buildings on the Centennial Campus. A concentration on caring for the environment serves as a model for other parks and a learning opportunity for NCSU students.

The Centennial Campus Master Plan is a document, which outlines how the new land acquisition will enhance the school's original land-grant mission "dedicated to the development and application of science and technology to identified economic and social needs, and to training the citizens responsible for making the economy and society function."[32] By fulfilling its educational mission in a high tech world, NCSU has been able to achieve national prominence as a major research university in science and technology and to support the growth and evolution of a once purely agrarian and industrial campus.

The campus developed as a series of clusters with a mix of academic and private research buildings. Twelve academic clusters of approximately 25-30 acres each have been proposed. Each cluster would contain laboratories, classrooms, offices, public and private buildings, residences, plazas, courtyards, etc. Over forty percent of the land has been set aside for open space and green areas. Raleigh City Councilwoman Norma DeCamp Burns emphasized the importance of environmental stewardship in the late 1980s when she stated that, "People belittle the importance of trees and think it's only an appearance issue, but trees have powerful environmental effects."[33] On Centennial Campus, trees purify the air by removing carbon dioxide, reduce noise, provide shade, and cool the city by radiating water through their branches and leaves.

The idea of clusters, "extends [the university's] original mission to produce farmers for the state's fields and engineers for the state's factories but as the state's economy changes the university needs to get more involved not only in helping existing industries but also in promoting newer ones such as computers and biotechnology."[34] Planners also envisioned that the cluster concept would promote "cross-fertilization" between academic departments that was lacking on the main campus.

The year 1986 brought changes to the land allocated for Centennial Campus. The Master Plan called for a portion of land owned by the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh to be acquired by the university. Via sale, lease, or trade, the land adjoining the former Dix property was crucial to further development. The Catholic Diocese was interested in expanding facilities for the Cardinal Gibbons School. The land in question lay south of Cardinal Gibbons Drive and was formerly used by the Diocese as the site for a Catholic orphanage. NCSU bought the land from the Diocese for $7.5 million through another exchange with the NCSU Endowment. Vatican approval, however, was needed before the sale was finalized.

By 1987, Centennial Campus administrators were interested in rapid development. However, the NCSU Board of Trustees' suggestion that the school incorporate a procedure bypassing the General Administration and the Board of Governors was met with cool reception. The plan involved leasing land to private companies for research. The revenue generated from leases would go back to the school (with the approval of the Council of State and State Legislature). The UNC Board of Governors is supposed to have final say in real estate deals at system universities. Centennial Campus and its proposal for rapid development threatened that tradition.[35] The solution was for NCSU to, "[draft] a 'memorandum of understanding' that would allow the University to control the land on a daily basis. The memorandum would weed through the lengthy process of seeking approval for the projects from the Board of Governors and the Council of State"[36]

With the decade of the 1990s came a re-evaluation of the progress of Centennial Campus. Chancellor Bruce Poulton was gone and replaced by Chancellor Larry Monteith from the School of Engineering. The original plan for the campus had envisioned a major corporate and government tenants. The slow rate of growth inspired the new Chancellor to assemble a group of developers and real estate experts to re-evaluate the Master Plan and come up with new strategies. Monteith stated, " 'Let's overlay this nice Master Plan with some financial realities."[37] It is important to keep in mind, however, that during the late 1980s-early 1990s, North Carolina experienced a recession and that university research parks do not emerge overnight, " 'the recession halted the state money needed to build the academic research centers that were supposed to lure corporations.' "[38] State and university budget short-falls directly impacted Centennial's potential for growth.

One reason corporations were hesitating is the long process of approvals for state construction and the complicated guidelines that hindered contractors and designers. "The chief obstacle to the campus' success is the inability of a public institution to match the efficiency and speed of private companies in putting up new buildings."[39] The developers urged NCSU to take a more aggressive approach to marketing and public relations.[40] They would focus on a four pronged strategy of research partnerships, workforce partnerships, training partnerships, and technology environments. Research programs included advanced materials, biotechnology, veterinary medicine, advanced communications technologies, environmental technologies, and manufacturing process engineering.

In the early 1990s, Centennial Campus realized some major projects that helped to push further towards success. The College of Textiles moved from the main campus to Centennial land and the Engineering Graduate Research Center was established. The designers of Walter Robbs Callahan and Pierce Architects of Winston-Salem designed the new College of Textiles as an enormous 300,000-square-foot building in four parts, each connected by arcades and plazas. Classes began in the new building in spring of 1991. The College was important to NCSU because it showed that academic institutions could play a role in helping industry in North Carolina compete with cheaper, foreign imports.

For Dean of the College of Engineering and later Chancellor of NCSU, Larry Monteith, Centennial provided the necessary space for sophisticated laboratories needed to recruit competitive graduate students as well as helping maintain the national stature of the school. Architects throughout the project have been encouraged to incorporate technology into their design concepts for the buildings rather than trying to disguise it.

The early 1990s also saw government tenants moving onto Centennial Campus. The National Weather Service move was a part of a national modernization of the organization emphasizing new equipment and techniques. The United State Department of Agriculture selected Centennial as the site for its new APHIS Center for Plant Health Science and Technology (APHIS stands for Animal Plant Health Inspection Service). This laboratory is concerned with plant protection and quarantine techniques.

In autumn 1994, around the tenth anniversary celebration of Centennial Campus, Director Claude McKinney thanked Governor Hunt, "for the faith he had in [NCSU's] ability to use this land with a sense of stewardship and respect for quality to help the state in its economic development objectives and to further the University's mission into the twenty-first century."[41] In a conference in 1988, McKinney had outlined the importance of Chancellor Bruce Poulton in development as well,

This vision evolved through a series of discussions led by Chancellor Bruce R. Poulton with Trustees, members of the faculty and administrative advisory staff, and our corporate and governmental supporters. It is important to note that this vision was not a simple response to a direct charge, but more an interpretation of the University's larger responsibility in the 1980s and beyond. We are in a position in which the University's faculty can step forward, taking an initiative as intellectual entrepreneurs and through their scientific and technological advancements, contribute to the state's economic development. This University has accepted the broader mission and is taking a risk in the institutional marketplace rather than [waiting] for a direct 'commission' by some higher authority. Historically, educational institutions have been 'conveners of people' to address the conditions in our society. NCSU will now convene a different kind of forum- beyond rhetoric- one of action bringing together our institution with our partners in government and industry.[42]

During the early development of the campus, every detail of design, infrastructure, finance, and management had to be created and implemented. This process included guidelines for naming the new buildings and road networks that were to grace Centennial. Following in a tradition much like that of the main NCSU campus, the procedures for naming structures and streets on Centennial were meant to reflect the components of the Master Plan. Names would honor university and non-university individuals, faculty, alumni, and groups mainly. However, exceptions were made to include significant dates or events in campus history, historical North Carolina places, symbols, activities, or functions with special meaning to the university. "Character areas" such as neighborhoods and open space are identified by names that connect people, events, places, or activities to the location.[43]

Functioning of Centennial Campus Today

Currently, there are seven categories of land use associated with Centennial Campus. Some of these categories have already been built and are being used such as R & D facilities, multi-tenant and special-use offices, retail establishments, and incubator facilities. Others such as residences and the hotel and executive conference center remain underdeveloped or have not yet been built. However, ownership of new land allows the university to renew its commitment to North Carolinians as a land-grant institution.

The Master Plan calls for three broad categories of housing on Centennial Campus, including university sponsored undergraduate and graduate living space, faculty and staff housing, and "market-rate" housing available to the public. Residential neighborhoods have been slow to develop:

North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus is a research and advanced technology community where university, industry, and government partners interact in multidisciplinary programs directed toward the solution of contemporary problems. In this 'knowledge enterprise zone,' clusters of activity break down traditional, artificial barriers to creation, integration, and application of advances in knowledge. The resulting synergy leads to: technological innovation and transfer, reality-based teaching and learning, sound business investment, and greater quality of life for North Carolina and beyond.[44]

Centennial Campus caters to two different types of customers- primary and intermediate. Primary customers are companies and government agencies who have a significant Research and Development need that may be enhanced by partnerships with academic departments at the university. Intermediate customers are university and non-university individuals and groups who help to connect potential primary customers with NCSU. Primary customers benefit from being associated with a major American research university as well as financially from access to people, technology, and campus amenities.[45]

The Partnership Development Office was created to serve as a liaison between NCSU and private companies and the government. It "is based on teamwork which delivers a seamless integration of quality service to prospective resident partners from first contact throughout the period of co-location with the University."[46] Partnership Developers work with representatives from various corporate and government organizations regarding issues with locating and maintaining space at Centennial.[47]

In order to match the right kinds of businesses and researchers to Centennial Campus, NCSU wrote evaluation criteria for potential tenants. This allows the university to screen corporate and government resident partners to make sure that they will adhere to the programmatic requirements of the faculty and departments at NCSU. The five criteria are as follows:

  • The organization should have an established relationship with some unit of the University, or there must be an expressed interest by the organization and the University in establishing such a relationship.
  • The organization could have an interest in the University's intellectual property, i.e. patent or copyright or in the unprotected research produced by our faculty and/or graduate students.
  • The organization could have been a sponsor of research or a member of one of the University's established centers or institutes. These multi-disciplinary units, with their corporate members, are a natural precedent to resident partnership status.
  • The organization should have as its principal activity the conduct of research or research related management in their facilities on Centennial Campus. Research and Development is a logical extension of research. If manufacturing is involved, it should be in pilot or limited units of production.
  • The organization should present evidence of financial stability to the University in negotiating for space on the Centennial Campus. Other factors such as quantity of space (a suite vs. a complete building), length of lease commitment and other financial considerations will be addressed on a case by case basis.[48]

Generally, the process of recruiting new partners for Centennial Campus follows five basic steps. In the first exploratory stage, partners are recommended to NCSU by groups like university faculty, the Chamber of Commerce, or the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Once a potential client has been identified, an initial meeting is set up to introduce the prospective partner to Centennial. At this meeting, the future for the Campus is outlined and the partner is invited to a second meeting. The second meeting is a round table discussion involving the faculty, administration, and partner. At this meeting, a formal invitation to join Centennial may be issued. Next, a written proposal is sent to the partner and the partner is expected to send back a letter of intent to the university. Finally, negotiations over lease, infrastructure, etc. are conducted.[49]

In 1991-1992, Centennial Campus was able to apply those guidelines and procedures towards its first corporate tenant, ABB Power T&D Co. Asea Brown Boveri is a multinational firm based in Zurich, Switzerland. Their Transmission Technology Institute opened at Centennial in Research Building I. The NCSU Endowment Fund exchanged approximately two acres of land (70 acres had been purchased by the Endowment from the original allocation to Centennial) with the university's state owned land. This allowed NCSU to use the NCSU Research Corporation (a private group within the university) to take out a loan to build the ABB facility. With an annual revenue of $29 billion (in 1992 dollars), Centennial staff were delighted that the company had selected a site in Raleigh and rushed to complete a facility.[50]

Partnerships between the university, industry, and government agencies fundamental to Centennial Campus were not without criticism. The media and state government pressured NCSU to ensure that the academic mission of the school was not compromised. However, the university has triumphed over this obstacle by incorporating safeguards to counter corporate competition and corruption. Guidelines created by NCSU state that industry-sponsored research must lead to new knowledge and be supervised and approved by faculty. Additional guidelines are as follows:

  • Special emphasis should be given to research projects that 'provide financial support for students, enhance the educational and research facilities of the university and contribute to the professional development of the faculty.'
  • All research projects must be approved by a department head, the dean of a college and the vice chancellor for research.
  • The university will not 'knowingly' undertake research on weapons development. The university 'does not, under normal circumstances, encourage acceptance of any research project which is secret or classified.'
  • The university holds patent rights to inventions arising from university research to assure 'the utilization of such inventions for the public good.'[51]

After the development of a plan for land use, the next challenge to NCSU administrators was the creation of a programmatic plan for Centennial Campus. Dr. Charles Moreland, working in the university research office with Frank Hart (Vice Chancellor for Research), Jaine Place (Centennial Campus Staff), and George Worsley (Vice Chancellor for Finance & Business), was charged with outlining a way to link private companies with NCSU. This team decided to allow NCSU faculty to have a large role in recruitment. Professors in the strongest programs at NCSU would develop relationships with companies that were already supporting research in the field. In this way, corporations and start-ups could participate in a "research center approach" where faculty and student interaction were crucial.[52]

Besides easy access to people, technology, and amenities, Centennial Campus also stands out for its ability to expand, design and building quality, environmental stewardship, access to RDU International Airport, proximity to downtown Raleigh, and transportation networks. However, the campus is considered less competitive in price, currently available space, construction timelines and lease processing time, infrastructure for sites, and leases, which are limited to a maximum of 40 years.[53]

Obstacles for Centennial Campus

A major obstacle to the success of Centennial Campus was the issue of revenue created from its development. Generally, revenue produced from property development at any school in the UNC system are sent back to the state's general fund. Money is then distributed as the Council of State sees fit as opposed to being invested back into NCSU. Chancellor Bruce Poulton, in a 1986 interview with The News and Observer, stated that he would lobby for new legislation or regulations allowing the university to put the revenues generated by Centennial back into the project itself. In other words, NCSU needed an exemption from the Council of State.[54]

A major component of Centennial Campuses' Master Plan has always been an executive conference center, which would exist to meet the educational needs of the corporations and scientists working at NCSU. Additionally, educational classrooms within the center could serve as meeting spaces for government and private agencies. The scope of the 300,000 square foot project included 250 guest rooms, 25-50,000 square feet of meeting rooms and dining rooms, audio/visual capabilities, food prep and service areas, and recreational facilities at an approximate cost of $40-50 million.[55] Chancellor Larry Monteith argued that the conference center is necessary if Centennial is meant to be a hub of intellectual activity.[56] For him the wealth created by such a center would help create jobs and support causes such as the arts that government agencies tend not to fund.[57]

One focal point for the executive conference center is a proposed golf course facility, which would serve the dual purposes of recreation and education. "The principal research agenda for a golf course would involve NCSU faculty and graduate students in the areas of agronomy, soil science, plant pathology, biotechnology, entomology, agricultural engineering, toxicology, wildlife management, urban forestry, textiles, and agricultural economics."[58] A golf course might also serve as a bridge between the university and the larger Raleigh community while at the same time providing additional revenue as well. The faculty at NCSU maintain that building and maintaining a golf course at Centennial Campus would increase student internship and research opportunities, provide a field trip site for interdisciplinary majors on campus, expand the facilities for the Athletic Department, and potentially serve as a sight for a potential PGA Academy.

Financing & Business Model

The Centennial Campus is long-term project, which is expected to carry the university into the next century of its development. Easily expected to exceed $1 billion in cost it must be financed in a variety of ways. First, NCSU acquires funds from the North Carolina State Legislature in the form of appropriations and bonds. Second, corporations and the federal government provide money in the form of research grants awarded to faculty and students. The third, and most important source of revenue comes from the money generated from leases of land and buildings on the campus to companies and government agencies in a land-lease system. "Under such an arrangement, the university would lease land to a private company or developer who then would put up a building and rent space to private clients interested in a research partnership with the university such leases would be paid in advance revenue could be used to retire the debt from revenue bonds issued to pay for such needs as roads and sewer systems."[59]

Legal changes by the State Legislature were needed to allow the Centennial business model to work. The following law was passed to regulate NCSU, "The purpose of this Article is to authorize the Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina to issue revenue bonds, payable from any leases, rentals, charges, fees, and other revenues but with no pledge of taxes or the faith and credit of the State or any agency or political subdivision thereof, to pay the cost, in whole or part, of buildings, structures, or other facilities for the Centennial Campus, located at North Carolina State University at Raleigh."[60] As a result, the Centennial Campus model has created a pool of money from indirect costs that supports research throughout the university.

Perhaps the most unique aspect to Centennial Campus lies in its flexibility to adapt and change over time. Rather than sell the land to corporations or the government, as many research parks often do, NCSU leases the land so that future Chancellors have the power to re-evaluate land usage in the coming decades of the twenty-first century. In this way, NCSU holds the land in trust for the education of future citizens of North Carolina, the United States, and the world. This flexibility encourages an attitude of support for the university's changing needs.

Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School

The concept of the Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School grew out of an idea meant to bring the school systems of the Triangle closer together. A model elementary school would be built in Chapel Hill/Orange County and a model high school would be built in Durham County. Governor James B. Hunt, Raleigh Council members, the Triangle J Council of Governments, and NCSU's Department of Education were all involved in brainstorming sessions and presentations leading to a proposal to use part of the land of Centennial Campus for a model middle school. In a 1995 memo from Claude E. McKinney to Charles Moreland, obstacles to the project were made clear, "The overture was met with cool reception because the Centennial Campus never anticipated having such an institution in its compact, interactive Master Plan. The concept grew more credible as we learned that Wake County would be willing to consider a building lease and therefore, would be an operational expenditure, as opposed to a capital investment."[61]

A new, compact school, in an urban setting was seen as a way to inject creativity into the Wake County Public School system while at the same time benefiting NCSU's College of Education. Serving a student body of approximately 660 students from across the county, the compact building is located on the southwest portion of campus. It is hoped that the school will be a model (like Exploris Middle School and Moore Square Magnet Middle School in downtown Raleigh) of how a school system like Wake County will transition from suburban to urban in the coming decades of the twenty-first century.

The creators of the Magnet Middle School worked from the premise that school children in the middle grades have already identified their academic strengths and weaknesses. In other words, these students have identified their predisposition towards mathematics, science, and technology. Students with a talent and desire to excel in those fields would be the ideal candidates for the new Magnet Middle School. Although the school still recruited a diverse student body and taught a diverse curriculum, many educators saw the school as an opportunity to increase educational opportunities in technological areas. Wake County Public Schools and NCSU developed five guidelines to help shape Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School:

  • Extensive interaction between students and adults, including community members, industry and government researchers, and NC State professors and students.
  • Exploration of adolescent concerns and real-world issues through a curriculum, which integrates skills and concepts of various disciplines.
  • Use of cutting-edge technologies as a resource in all teaching and outreach areas.
  • Maximized linkages with other educators, parents and youth-serving professionals in developing and disseminating innovative teaching/learning strategies.
  • Broad opportunities for ongoing research, evaluation, teacher preparation, and professional development.[62]

The mission statement of the new school shows the intimate connection it has with the resources of the local community:

The Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School, a collaboration of the Wake Public School System and NC State University, creates an exemplary educational community of young adolescents and adults who learn by actively discovering, integrating, and applying knowledge in a dynamic global and technological environment. This collaboration promotes educational change through a unique state and national outreach program for educators, parents, and community members [the school] will hold high expectations for all, and will provide a high-quality education, which honors the diversity and unique needs of middle school students.[63]

Centennial Campus vs. Research Triangle Park

From the earliest stages of development, Centennial Campus struggled to clearly distinguish itself from the Research Triangle Park. Claude E. McKinney wrote, "The Centennial Campus is a complimentary activity to the Research Triangle Park. In its park environment the Research Triangle facilitates research enterprises, which support individual corporate and governmental cultures. The Centennial Campus seeks to build a mixed-use, urban scale interactive environment which will facilitate collaboration between university researchers and corporate/governmental scientists."[64] McKinney even envisioned degrees of collaboration between RTP and Centennial, often stating publicly that the corporate research centers at the Park may eventually send scientific teams to work at Centennial with faculty, staff, and students.

The administrators and staff of Centennial Campus have made a conscious effort to limit the number of large corporations that reside at NCSU. Unlike RTP, which sells its land, Centennial Campus deals in long and short-term leases. A few large companies could easily overwhelm the land in a short time period. "A campus where there is a turnover, where small businesses get large, where large businesses move off, where some of the small businesses fail, where some merge or are sold, provides dynamic and ever-changing opportunities of developing meaningful partnerships based upon the ever-changing research agenda of the university."[65]

Centennial Campus is a very urban and compact campus, which is appropriate for a university in the heart of the city and right beside downtown. The RTP is filled with more open space that is outside of developed areas. Companies working at RTP are also much more likely to remain isolated from one another in the effort to maintain corporate privacy in research. In opposition to that, Centennial has developed a decidedly more collaborative atmosphere between faculty, students, and private industry.


Today Centennial Campus is involved with a number of innovative and exciting partnerships. The computer science department at NCSU is actively engaged with Red Hat, Inc., a company focusing on Linux operating system development. Red Hat, Inc. is headquartered at Centennial. The department of engineering has benefited from work with NASA's Mars Rover Robotics Project. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) weather forecasting headquarters has given additional opportunities to students in both undergraduate and graduate programs. The College of Education has had real teaching and learning experiences to offer its students via the Centennial Campus Middle School. Although 1,000 acres seems almost too much land for one university to develop, the timeline for the project is 100 years. It took a century for the main campus to exhaust its resources, Centennial has over 75 years left to catch up to the original land grant campus.

The challenges for Centennial Campus have not disappeared though perhaps they become easier as the project's success is cemented with each new partnership. Housing developments; linking main campus to Centennial; developing a core mixed-use center; and building the hotel, executive conference center, and people-mover system still lie ahead. Most likely the threat of competition with the private sector, a lack of political support, and budget issues have delayed most of these projects.[66]

Centennial Campus is rapidly becoming a model, "something that is envied by a lot of other universities in the United States and a lot of other universities in other countries in the world."[67] Governor Hunt has said, "My belief is that no other campus is doing this to the extent that we are, but I suspect many have learned about the idea and are beginning to do it. And indeed I think it is a smart thing for them to do. We just want to run harder and stay ahead."[68] From the language used here, it is clear that Hunt has much pride in the accomplishment of Centennial Campus.

The legacy of an entity as unique as Centennial Campus is that many individuals associated with the project want to take sole credit for the idea. However, given the numerous records in the North Carolina State University Archives and the information given in interviews over the years, several versions of the "history" of Centennial Campus exist. Time, death, memories, and reflections have more than likely blurred the facts for most people. It is clear that the hard work and planning were conducted by the Hunt administrations, Martin administration, Chancellor Bruce R. Poulton, Chancellor Larry Monteith, and Claude E. McKinney, regardless of whose idea birthed a new day for North Carolina's technical university.

[1] 1999 Promotional Booklet for Centennial Campus, North Carolina State University Archives, Box UA 3.10.1.

[2] Report of a University/Industry/Government Conference on Uses of the Dix Campus Property to Enhance the Industry/ University Research Interface, NCSU McKimmon Center, November 20, 1985, NCSU Archives.

[3] "Marking a Milestone: NCSU's Centennial Campus to be a 'new academic city,' " by: Mike Collins, Triangle Business, April 27-May 4, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[4] Interview with James B. Hunt by Ron Kemp of NCSU Creative Services, January 22, 2004.

[5] In an interview with NCSU Creative Services on April 20, 1995, Bruce R. Poulton stated that he "became aware of what was called the Dix Hill Farm. I approached a woman who was head of Health and Human Services. Dr. Sarah Morrow, asking about was there any opportunity to get some of that land reassigned, indeed she would be willing to recommend the transfer that led us to the Governor's office for exploratory conversations about was there any real chance and Dr. Hunt's response to that was 'well you show me on paper what you would do with that land and make your case as to why it's critical to NC State University and we'll take it from there.'"

No other independent source in the NCSU Archives or oral history interview has been able to corroborate this version of Centennial's history. Poulton declined to participate in this project stating in an email, "I am going to write the history of the acquisition and early development of CC covering the period 1982 to 1990. I will publish it myself if I have to but I am not going to allow that history to be written by people who were not involved or have it come out as a surprise gift from Governor Hunt!" (email Bruce Poulton to Carla Skuce, June 23, 2004). Future scholarship on the history of Centennial Campus will have to compare this report to Poulton's.

[6] "The Dix Studio: A Report on the Introductory Graduate Landscape Architecture Studio," by: Ben Coonrod and Elizabeth Fischer, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Design, June 1986, NCSU Archives Box UA 3.10.5.

[7] "The Dix Studio: A Report on the Introductory Graduate Landscape Architecture Studio," by: Ben Coonrod and Elizabeth Fischer, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Design, June 1986, NCSU Archives Box UA 3.10.5.

[8] "Officials Protest Dix Land Transfer," Thomasville Times Paper, December 19, 1984, NCSU Archives Box UA 50.4.3.

[9] Chronology of Actions Regarding NCSU Centennial Campus, by: Chancellor Bruce R. Poulton, August 31, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[10] "Governor Hid Land Transfer from Public," by: Paul O'Connor, Shelby Daily Star, January 3, 1985, NCSU Archives.

[11] Email Bruce R. Poulton to Ron Kemp of NCSU Creative Services, July 26, 2004. Poulton states here that he hadn't discussed with Jim Hunt anything about NCSU acquiring the land as late as June 1984. The Hunt administration transferred the first parcel of land in December of that year.

[12] "Internal Memo Shows Possible Procedural Flaw in Dix Transfer," by: James Walker, Technician, 1985, NCSU Archives.

[13] "Dix Land to Transfer to NCSU," by: Ann Green, The News and Observer, December 18, 1984, NCSU Archives Box UA 50.4.3.

[14] "Land Seen as Resource for Mentally Ill," by: Elaine Purpel and John Baggett, Raleigh Times, January 15, 1985, NCSU Archives.

[15] "Centennial Campus: NCSU becomes Raleigh's Biggest-and Most Controversial- Developer," by: Jack Betts, Leader Growth and Development, August 27, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[16] "Centennial Campus Plan Faces Scrutiny Over its Impact on City," by: Paul Gaffney, The News and Observer, December 29, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[17] "Centennial Campus Plan Faces Scrutiny Over its Impact on City," by: Paul Gaffney, The News and Observer, December 29, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[18] "New Campus at NCSU a Challenge," by: Bill Krueger, The News and Observer, December 27, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[19] "Campus Plans Depend on Funds," The News and Observer, April 16, 1989, NCSU Archives Box UA 3.10.13.

[20] "Urban Minus the Ugly," by: Stephen Litt, The News and Observer, NCSU Archives.

[21] "Against Campus Plan," by: Dennis Wood, The News and Observer, January 8, 1988, NCSU Archives Box UA 3.10.13.

[22] "Final Dix Report Made," by: Joe Galarneau, Technician, January 13, 1986, NCSU Archives.

[23] "Presentation: Science & Technology: An Opportunity for Innovation in Community Design," by: Claude E. McKinney, presented at the International Seminar on Development Experiences of High Tech Industrial Parks, Nov. 21-22, 1991, Soowanbo, Korea, NCSU Archives, p. 11-12.

[24] Memo Claude E. McKinney to John Beck of Beck, Mack, & Oliver, April 27, 1994, NCSU Archives, Box UA 3.10.1.

[25] Memo Claude E. McKinney to Dr. Glenn A. Olds, January 25, 1995, NCSU Archives, Box UA 3.10. 1.

[26] "N.C. State Should Own Its Campus," by: Bruce R. Poulton, The News and Observer, July 18, 1986, NCSU Archives.

[27] "Public-Private Link is Foundation for NCSU's 'academic new city,' " The News and Observer, May 25, 1986, NCSU Archives Box UA 50.5.3.

[28] "Promising Design Presents Challenge for Centennial Campus," The News and Observer, December 30, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[29] "Presentation: Science & Technology: An Opportunity for Innovation in Community Design," by: Claude E. McKinney, presented at the International Seminar on Development Experiences of High Tech Industrial Parks, Nov. 21-22, 1991, Soowanbo, Korea, NCSU Archives, p. 14.

[30] "Centennial Campus Development and Design Guidelines," NCSU Archives Box UA 3.10.5.

[31] "Centennial Campus Development and Design Guidelines," NCSU Archives Box UA 3.10.5.

[32] Aspirations of North Carolina State University in the Context of Developing the Centennial Campus, p. 1. NCSU Archives.

[33] "Density of Centennial Campus Remains a Nagging [Issue]?" by: Laura Herbst, The News and Observer, 1988, NCSU Archives Box UA 3.10.13.

[34] "Public-Private Link is Foundation for NCSU's 'academic new city,' " The News and Observer, May 25, 1986, NCSU Archives Box UA 50.5.3.

[35] "Preventing Progress," editorial, Technician, January 12, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[36] "Board Requests New Management," by: Madelyn Rosenburg, Technician, January 12, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[37] "NCSU Striving to Make Dream Campus a Reality," by: Trish Wilson, The News and Observer, September 6, 1992, NCSU Archives.

[38] "Building on Centennial," editorial, Technician, November 17, 1993, NCSU Archives.

[39] "NCSU Dream Faces Tough Decisions," by: J. Keith Jordan, Technician, September 11, 1992, NCSU Archives.

[40] "Centennial Campus Needs Hard Sell, Experts Say," by: Trish Wilson, The News and Observer, September 29, 1992, NCSU Archives.

[41] Memo Claude E. McKinney to Thomas Roane of Demeter Technologies, November 23, 1994, NCSU Archives, Box UA 3.10.1.

[42] Conference of the North Carolina Association of Colleges and Universities, by: Claude E. McKinney, November 3, 1988, NCSU Archives Box UA 3.10.3.

[43] Proposed Criteria and Guidelines to Be Used in Naming Facilities on the Centennial Campus, April 22, 1994, NCSU Archives.

[44] Marketing and Communications Plan for Centennial Campus Draft, June 27, 1994, p.1, NCSU Archives.

[45] Marketing and Communications Plan for Centennial Campus Draft, June 27, 1994, pp. 4, 7, NCSU Archives.

[46] The Centennial Campus Development Office Governing Principle, NCSU Archives.

[47] University Affiliates Handbook, 2002-2003 edition, Partnership Development Office.

[48] Evaluation Criteria for Corporate/Governmental Resident Partners on the Centennial Campus, North Carolina State University, NCSU Archives.

[49] Memo Claude E. McKinney to Peter Carpenter, November 12, 1997, NCSU Archives.

[50] "NCSU Scrambled to Accommodate Facility," by: Trish Wilson, The News and Observer, September 6, 1992, NCSU Archives.

[51] "NCSU Plan Raises Concerns on Tying Academics, Industry," by: Bill Krueger, The News and Observer, December 28, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[52] Interview with Charles Moreland by Ron Kemp of NCSU Creative Services, July 2004.

[53] Marketing and Communications Plan for Centennial Campus Draft, June 27, 1994, p.10, NCSU Archives.

[54] "Diocese thinks about Dix swap to get I-40 Plot," by: David Perkins, The News and Observer, 1986, NCSU Archives.

[55] Justification Memorandum: Executive Classroom/Conference Center Hotel Complex, Centennial Campus, North Carolina State University, 1996, NCSU Archives.

[56] Interview with Larry Monteith by Paige Meszaros, July 2004.

[57] Interview with Larry Monteith by Paige Meszaros, July 2004.

[58] Memo William L. Klarman, L.T. Lucas, Charles H. Peacock, Phillip S. Rea, Richard E. Sykes, Todd Turner, M. Roger Warren, Johnny C. Wynne to Claude E. McKinney, September 23, 1993, NCSU Archives.

[59] "New Campus at NCSU a Challenge," by: Bill Krueger, The News and Observer, December 27, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[60] Centennial Campus Financing Act, June 10, 1987, NCSU Archives.

[61] Memo Claude E. McKinney to Charles Moreland, May 4, 1995, NCSU Archives.

[62] Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School Mission Statement, January 9, 1995, NCSU Archives.

[63] Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School Mission Statement, January 9, 1995, NCSU Archives.

[64] "Presentation: Science & Technology: An Opportunity for Innovation in Community Design," by: Claude E. McKinney, presented at the International Seminar on Development Experiences of High Tech Industrial Parks, Nov. 21-22, 1991, Soowanbo, Korea, p.16, NCSU Archives.

[65] Interview with Larry Monteith by Paige Meszaros, July 2004.

[66] Interview with Larry Monteith by Paige Meszaros, July 2004.

[67] Interview with Charles Moreland by Ron Kemp of NCSU Creative Service, July 2004.

[68] Interview with James B. Hunt by Ron Kemp of NCSU Creative Services, August 2004.