A design is now being created for the renovation of the Downtown Centre in Johnson City, but it will still be at least January before classes can begin at the Northeast State Community College satellite teaching site.
Shaw & Shanks Architects of Johnson City was selected to design the renovations for the site located in downtown Johnson City. Monday, the architects and design team met with college leaders at the Centre in a kickoff meeting to discuss what renovations will be needed.
“It’s to give the design team a place to start, basically,” Pete Miller, Northeast State plant operations manager, said of the meeting. “We’ll give them some idea of how many faculty offices we’ll need, restrooms, how big the student population we expect it to grow to on down the road, that sort of thing.”
Miller said the architects need to know what the school expects out of the renovation. For example, a large space to the right of the front entrance is planned for five classrooms. This area is framed in with boards right now but has plenty of space for classrooms. Each room will require electricity and other things. Additionally the restrooms must be made to comply with ADA standards, a sprinkler system must be installed, door hardware needs replaced and alarms must be added.
“There’s a good bit of things that are going to have to be done to bring it up to modern codes,” Miller said.
All that work could take awhile, making an absolute date for classes to be offered at the Centre difficult to determine. Originally, the school intended to have classes at the Centre this fall semester, which begins in a few weeks. Back in March school President Janice Gilliam said the renovations would take longer.
“Our goal is to have it ready for spring semester in January, but due to all of the things that are going to have to be done to make sure it’s code compliant that date may be a little optimistic,” Miller said. “Our bottom line is to make sure that the building is safe before we put students and staff and faculty in here.”
The recent flooding downtown reached into the building. But during any heavy rain the building will have water.
“It gets into the hallways,” Miller said. “We have found it coming down this stairwell near the elevator pretty much anytime it rains. We have found a couple of places water is getting into the building other than the stairwell, so we’re working on ways to redirect that water to the drains. But it’s still a problem that’s going to have to be solved before we can occupy the building.”
The Johnson City Development Authority purchased the Downtown Centre from Washington County for $1 million in December. The facility had been used as a courthouse and for other county government offices. The JCDA will rent the building for a nominal fee to NSCC so the college can operate a Washington County teaching site. The JCDA also is providing a $1 million grant to the NSCC Foundation to provide the necessary renovations.
The classes that will be eventually be offered are in a program of study called university parallel. These classes would prepare students to enter a four-year university. Subsequent semesters would see the addition of the program’s advanced courses.
Gilliam said she expects around 100 students to be able to enroll in classes once the center opens. She predicted around 1,000 students would take classes at the site within five years.