Construction officially began on the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning in University of Louisiana's Research Park.

Ratcliff Construction Company, of Alexandria, La., leads the construction effort on the 40,000-square-foot facility, winning the bid against seven companies at $5.6 million. Construction is anticipated to take 16 months, or 480 days, to complete.

"It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but in the grand scheme of construction projects, it has actually happened pretty quickly," says Dr. Billy R. Stokes, Executive Director of the Picard Center. "We are excited for the state and the university, as well as the Picard family and the Special Children’s Foundation, whose support and generous donations have allowed the Picard Center to develop and grow. We have all been waiting to see this day come to fruition."

The new Picard Center building will be located beside the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE) Center on East Devalcourt Street, as an integral part of the University of Louisiana’s Research Park.

When complete, the state-of-the-art complex will house the entire Picard Center operation, in addition to UL’s Educational Counseling unit, the Center for Innovative Learning and Assessment Technologies, the Educational Foundation and Leadership Department, the Center for Gifted Education, and the Department of Psychology.

The building will include a room of museum-quality memorabilia from Cecil J. Picard’s career, a data analysis room with state-of-the-art computer stations, and the Loyd Rockhold Distance Education and Conference Center, complete with distance learning opportunities and video conferencing capabilities.

UL Provost Dr. Steve Landry notes, "The University is excited that the construction is beginning because we are very eager to bring this outstanding and diverse research and education team together in one state-of-the-art facility. The synergy is sure to foster impressive innovation."

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Since the Picard Center’s establishment at UL in 2005, it has brought more than $34 million into the university, through contracts, state appropriations, capital construction dollars and foundation contributions.

"The entire Picard Family is both excited and humbled that my father’s dream of this educational research center of excellence having its own home will finally be a reality," says Tyron Picard, son of the late Cecil J. Picard.

Sharon Holder, President of the Special Children’s Foundation and donor of the Picard Center, echoes Picard’s sentiments, stating, "My father, Loyd Rockhold, and I are really excited to see our dream become a reality. We look forward to a terrific future for the Picard Center and for all the valuable work they do."

The Picard Center, named in honor of former State Superintendent of Education Cecil J. Picard, is dedicated to providing high-quality research and strategic evaluations of programs that address learning from birth through adulthood and investigates ways to bring scientifically-based research to bear on public policy in all areas of education, health, quality of life and workforce.