Serious renovations at the Downtown Centre could begin in a few months in preparation for Northeast State Community College locating a teaching site there.
Bids for contractors to renovate the building should be received in a few months and a firm selected in time for work to begin in June, NSCC President Janice Gilliam said.
Gilliam hopes work is finished in time for the college to begin offering classes in the fall, but it may be the spring 2014 semester before classes can be held at the Downtown Centre, 101 E. Market St.
The Downtown Centre, which has a parking garage, was a location for Washington County offices and a courthouse until those functions were moved elsewhere.
Work has been occurring at the building since last year to get it ready to become a school.
Once painting of the garage at the Centre began this past fall the structure was closed to the public. There are approximately 300 spaces in the garage. Work will be done on all levels of the building, including cleaning, information technology wiring installation and sheetrock abatement.
Gilliam said college policy is to deny access to construction areas to prevent personal injury and property damage.
“Anything under construction, you have to close down,” Gilliam said.
Public use of the garage attached to the Downtown Centre had been allowed since NSCC leased the structure from the Johnson City Development Authority in late 2011 to establish a teaching site there. NSCC signed a five-year contract to lease the building. The JCDA provided $1 million for renovations to the structure.
Major renovations will begin once a contractor has been selected, probably in a couple months.
These major renovations include installing a drainage system, complying with city codes and fire codes and creating classroom and office space.
Once the renovations are complete, a section of the garage will be designated for daily public use and for use on the weekends and during special events.
Access to the garage is currently blocked, and Gilliam said security is in place now to supervise the building.
Gilliam did say the college has received some complaints regarding the temporary closure of the parking garage. She apologized for any inconvenience but said the public would be able to use the garage after renovations are complete.
“In a few short months, we’ll be back to business as normal,” Gilliam said.
Once the Downtown Centre is ready for classes, students will be able to study coursework that will prepare them to transfer to a four-year university like East Tennessee State University.