WHEELING - In 2003, West Virginia Northern Community College embarked on a journey to create its College Square concept to expand its downtown campus.
The first project involved purchasing a vacant grocery warehouse next to the B&O Building, renovating it and opening it in 2005. Fast-forward to 2013, and Northern has renovated two more downtown structures - both former car dealership lots near the B&O - into space for more classes and a bookstore/student union center.
And there still is more room to grow, said Steve Lippiello, WVNCC chief financial officer and vice president of Administrative Services. For some time, the school has been negotiating the selling price on the former ECS Building, located directly behind the B&O Building. Lippiello said the current assessed value is $650,000 for the structure and accompanying lot, but Lippiello said that still is too much. With the anticipated high cost of removing asbestos in the building, Lippiello said the property needs to cost less to make it feasible for the college.
Photo by Ian Hicks
West Virginia Northern Community College’s new Student Union building and Applied Technology Center are part of the school’s College Square concept.
"I'm not sure we have any finality in terms of a plan. It's just from our perspective it truly completes our campus and it makes the most sense for us to acquire it," Lippiello said.
Meanwhile, Northern is gearing up to offer classes related to the natural gas drilling industry and more at one of its newly rehabilitated Wheeling campus buildings, the Applied Technology Center.
Classes start Aug. 19. Programs include mechatronics and petroleum technology. Also to be held in the ATC will be a basic welding course and refrigeration, air conditioning and heating technology classes.
"We've taken a number of families there and shown them what we offer. What we have there is state of the art," Lippiello said, noting college officials consulted with people in the industry to make sure they purchased the right equipment to train people on.
J. Michael Koon, WVNCC vice president of Economic and Workforce Development, said the college's mechatronics program began at its Weirton campus two years ago. Four of its five graduates already are working in their field.
Mechatronics teaches people how to work on electrical, motor, hydraulic and pneumatic systems and more.
The petroleum technology program teaches students how to work in the natural gas and oil drilling industry by learning safety practices, use of equipment and rigging hardware and more. Koon said the college still is seeking an instructor for that course.
"There are a number of opportunities for people to use these skills," Koon said, adding that drilling companies are seeking trained people to fill positions.