RCCC maps out space needs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 5, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College officials rolled out a draft of the school’s long-term facility master plan last week.
President Dr. Carol Spalding said the four-phase plan accommodates growing enrollment.
“While we are thrilled to have so much enrollment growth over the last several years, space has become a big issue for the college,” she said. “I truly want our students to have a great education in facilties that help them to learn and grow.
“This facility master plan is the next step in making that happen.”
Rob Johnson, an architect with Charlotte-based MBAJ Architecure, presented to the plan to the board of trustees.
The plan is aligned with enrollment data and driven by the program needs of the college.
Johnson said after surveying the college’s usable space, MBAJ found the North Campus in Salisbury currently has a shortage of 132,000 square-foot space.
He said that figure is expected to grow to 156,000 by 2015 and 192,000 by 2020.
“Rowan-Cabarrus has real space needs,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s firm has been conducting interviews, surveys and focus groups with students, staff, faculty and community members since February to gather feedback about the college’s needs.
“The plan has been extremely interactive between Rowan-Cabarrus and MBAJ Architecture,” he said.
The plan is designed to be implemented over a 20-year span.
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The first phase includes projects that will funded through the $12 million bond referendum passed by voters last November.
It includes campus accessibility improvements and renovations to several buildings, a 20,000-square-foot addition to the health science building and the relocation and expansion of the fire training grounds.
After the fire training ground is moved, parking will also be reconfigured and expanded.
Phase I also includes a new outdoor learning center, which will be built using private donations. The center will be used by the college, secondary education groups and the community at large.
Paula Dibley, the college’s public information officer, said the center will act as a learning laboratory for environmental and substantiality research and study.
“The North Campus has undeveloped acreage and natural wooded spaces in proximity of several of our classroom buildings that are ideal for this type of experiential learning,” she said. “This proposal also aligns with the college’s strategic plan to be environmentally responsive and responsible and to be a good steward of natural resources.”
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Phase II of the plan incudes the addition of an Advanced Technology and Engineering Building as well as a new student center and bookstore.
But Spalding said with the advancements in technology the bookstore of the future might not look the same.
“Will there be books or will we be selling Kindles and downloads?” she said. “We need to be thinking about what if, what if, what if with our master plan.”
Phase II also includes an additional entrance with a roundabout for traffic flow off of Julian Road.
A South quad along with green space would be added in Phase III.
New buildings and parking are part of both Phase III and IV. The current plan does not list what programs those buildings would house, but the college anticipates growth in health and public service technologies, industrial and engineering technologies, science and mathematics.
The college does not currently have a funding source in place for any part of the facility master plan beyond Phase I.
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As the college looks to deal with current space issues, officials are considering some changes.
Dibley said Cabarrus County Commissioners offered the college the unfinished seventh floor of the Cabarrus County Sheriff Administration Center in Concord for use by the basic law enforcement training program as well as the emergency medical and nurse aide training programs.
“Some of the details and timing are still being finalized, but this is indeed going to happen,” she said. “This initiative will create additional capacity for enrollment at our South Campus.”
Spalding said the college is also considering movings its nursing programs to the biotechnology building on the North Carolina Research Campus.
“It’s very compatible space with the biotech labs and the new public health building so it’s a really nice combination,” she said. “Doing it would not only relieve the North Campus, but it would also enhance programs by providing better facilities.”
Spalding said the college would have to come up with funding to pay for the unfinished classrooms to be brought up to speed. She is seeking grant money to finance construction.
“I think we’ll get the support we need,” she said.
Board Chairman Chip Short said he’s excited to see the college planning for the future.
“It’s important for our students to have access to quality facilities in which to learn,” he said. “It’s smart of the college to properly plan out how to best utilize its facilties.
“With this kind of proper planning we can ultimately save money and make strategic use of our resources.
The final version of the facility master plan will be presented to the board this fall.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.