The Johnson City Development Authority granted Northeast State Community College $1.2 million to renovate its Downtown Centre. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
A new lease agreement between the Johnson City Development Authority and Northeast State Community College will provide the school with an additional $1.2 million to renovate the Downtown Centre.
The city board approved a 10-year lease last week with the college, granting the loan and charging Northeast State $272,000 annually for the former county courthouse to repay the borrowed money in five years.
To help facilitate the creation of the college’s downtown satellite campus, the JCDA borrowed $2 million in 2011 from Eastman Credit Union, purchased the building from Washington County for $1 million and granted $1 million to the college for renovations.
At that time, Northeast State signed a five-year lease paying $10 per year for the offices an attached parking garage.
A year later, the JCDA provided another $512,750 to aid the college in the renovation process to help pay to stabilize the shifting structure on the building’s Buffalo Street side.
Each new grant brought with it a delay of the campus’ expected opening date.
First expected to welcome students in the fall of 2012, the new downtown campus is now scheduled for completion in January 2015.
Northeast State President Janice Gilliam said part of the delays came from the college’s decision to finish the entire first level instead of just half like originally planned.
“We’ll be sending it out for bid very soon,” Gilliam said. “Then, we think it should take 6 to 8 months for construction — we hope it will be closer to 6 — but we won’t know for sure until we get a contractor.”
After shoring up the structure, the second phase of the school’s construction plan was to install a high-efficiency boiler and HVAC duct work. That work was recently completed, Gilliam said.
The 17 classrooms and nearly that many administrative offices in the former county building will serve between 300 and 500 students at first, but could grow as needed.
Gilliam said some of the programming offered there will be new to the college’s system, and the school could share space with East Tennessee State University.
Included in the agreement struck last week were stipulations regarding the access to the attached parking garage.
Northeast State is required to provide public access to the garage when school isn’t in session, and 20 spaces in the 350-space structure will be designated for the employees of businesses adjacent to or across the street from the campus.
Gilliam said the parking in the garage should be adequate for up to 1,000 students at the site.
After five years, when the $1.2 million loan should be paid back, the understanding between the JCDA and the college allows the two entities to renegotiate the monthly lease amount.
Washington County Economic Development Council CEO Mitch Miller said the opening of the downtown campus is expected to be a business catalyst for the city’s core.
The hundreds of students downtown during the day, eating and shopping, could entice more businesses to move into the area.
“This is a good partnership with Northeast State Community College,” he said. “We’ve been working to get people into the downtown to help us grow businesses there, and this is it.”
Representatives of the JCDA and Northeast State are expected to officially sign the new agreement later this week.
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