A contractor should begin work in a few weeks to prepare the Downtown Centre for occupancy by Northeast State Community College, according to the school’s president.
Janice Gilliam, president of NSCC, said Armstrong Construction of Kingsport won the bid for phase 1 of the project to get the Centre, located in downtown Johnson City, ready for students to attend class.
Phase 1 includes some demolition and exterior improvements to the building and water-drainage improvements, Gilliam said.
“Work will start very shortly on the parking deck and other pieces, the part we’re calling remediation to stop any water leakages and those kinds of things, and to prepare the building then for construction on the inside,” she said.
After phase 1 is finished, a contractor will begin the next phase, which includes installation of a new HVAC system.
Gilliam said it will likely be late spring before the project will be completed and the building, which is a large parking garage with offices and other spaces, is ready for occupancy.
Bids for the second phase should be going out soon. Gilliam said the school received $180,000 from the state to help with this project.
Phase 1 is important because often rain would flood the elevator shaft, which would obviously prevent full use of the building.
“Once that’s fixed, then we feel good about constructing and renovating the rest of the building,” Gilliam said.
The first phase should take a few months to complete.
Phases 1 and 2 will cost around $400,000 each. The Johnson City Development Authority, which leases the facility to NSCC for a nominal fee, put up $1 million for renovations to the building.
“And it may take a little bit more (money) but we’re prepared to work on that issue,” Gilliam said.
A portion of the parking garage is still planned for public use about 15 or 20 spaces.
“Right now in the construction phase we won’t have occupancy so we won’t be able to utilize that garage during the construction phase.”
Students are primary then community parking.
JCDA purchased the building from Washington County a few years ago.
NSCC workers have already done some wiring, placed NSCC signage on the building and painted the outside. There is also a large electronic sign on the building near the intersection of Buffalo and Market streets.
After the needed work on the water drainage issues and the HVAC is complete, NSCC workers will be able to renovate the former Washington County courthouse to accommodate students.
“There won’t be a lot of moving of walls of the existing structure, but we will be adding five new classrooms in the right-hand side that used to be storage for the facility,” Gilliam said.
There should be 17 classrooms once the project is complete.
Gilliam expects 200 or 300 students the first semester the site is open and then 500 students within a few years.
Some of the classes offered there will lead to a four-year degree and others will lead to a two-year degree.
“We will expand programs as we go and get on site,” Gilliam said. “Each semester we will be adding new courses based on demand. And we’ll be looking to see what the community needs as far as employment and workforce development as well.”
Last year, 8,500 students were enrolled at NSCC. Students attend not only the main campus in Blountville but also teaching sites in Kingsport and Bristol.
“Our goal is to get within 20 or 30 miles of every citizen in this region, so each teaching site we expect to fully stack with classes and offerings as we move forward,” Gilliam said. “Kingsport is the model. I believe that if we provide the site and the opportunity and make it convenient that more students can participate, and, of course, that will have a direct impact on the economy by getting a skilled workforce ready.”