Northeast State Community College has the keys to the Downtown Centre but renovations need to be approved and completed before the school can offer classes there, which are still scheduled to begin this fall.
Washington County owned the Downtown Centre until December, when it was sold to the Johnson City Development Authority for $1 million. 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 set to provide a $1 million grant to the NSCC Foundation to provide renovations to the building.
Janice Gilliam, NSCC president, said the Blountville-based school has ordered NSCC signage for each side of the building, located in the heart of downtown Johnson City. A large digital sign will be placed on the side near the corner of Buffalo and Market streets. This sign will be able to offer changing information about NSCC and the programs offered at the site.
The Downtown Centre once was used as a courthouse and for county government offices before all those functions were moved elsewhere.
The courtrooms in the structure will not require much work to convert into classrooms, Gilliam said. NSCC speech and communication faculty have even requested one courtroom remain intact for use in public speaking and debate courses.
A storage area exists just to the right of the Downtown Centre’s main entrance that could be easily converted into a classroom, Gilliam said. Plus, the overall storage space offered by the Downtown Centre is something needed by the school, she said.
“And there’s really not a whole lot of renovating,” Gilliam said. “It’s mainly painting and looking at ceilings and cleaning.”
The majority of the building’s HVAC system will likely need to be replaced, too. This project could cost between $200,000 and $400,000, Gilliam said.
Gilliam said an architect or designer needs to provide plans on how to go about renovating the four or five classrooms that are anticipated and other projects. After those plans are approved, they need to be put out for bid and a contractor hired to complete the work. All this takes time.
“We are very excited, and we’ve just got to work through all the little details,” Gilliam said.