By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer
NEW BEDFORD — Bristol Community College officials said Tuesday a new, greatly expanded downtown campus would have a number of positive effects on the city and surrounding communities.
John J. Sbrega, BCC president, said the college can use 40,000 square feet of new space in addition to the 10,000 square feet it now has in the Star Store building on Union Street and scattered in nearby locations.
Dr. Sbrega said BCC easily could double its enrollment from 1,500 to 3,000 students, provide dedicated space for laboratories and expand non-credit programs that focus on work-force training and literacy. That will help support the higher education and work-force training needs of the city and surrounding communities.
“We’re very excited — we can do considerably more if we have additional space,” Dr. Sbrega said.
He said ideally the new space would be within two blocks of the Star Store building in which BCC now operates and which students identify as the local campus.
Dr. Sbrega said he has talked with Mayor Scott W. Lang and Matthew A. Morrissey of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
“We are grateful for whatever we can get of usable space to perform our mission,” Dr. Sbrega said.
But he cautioned that BCC will be watching to make certain it gets a boost in its annual budget to support the expanded space and role.
Dr. Sbrega said that with additional space, BCC can:
* Work toward increasing the level of education in SouthCoast, including literacy programs such as adult basic education, English as another language and helping people pass the high school equivalency test.
* Enhance the long-term economic development of the region and boost the work force.
* Provide direct economic benefits. Dr. Sbrega said BCC currently is estimated to put $90 million into Bristol County economy through salaries, spending on materials and in other ways.
Among the locations that would be considered, Dr. Sbrega said, is the former Keystone Building site, which is now an empty hole. Last week the city announced it had reached a deal with a Boston developer to take over the site and build a five- to seven-story building that could house retail, offices and college facilities along with apartments and possible housing for students. Officials said Tuesday that using the building in part for BCC is just one possibility and will be considered along with a range of other development options.
State Sen. Mark C. Montigny, D-New Bedford, announced Monday he and the local legislative delegation were supporting state bonding this year for a new campus for BCC downtown at a cost of up to $10 million. Sen. Montigny said the new campus can be built new, bought or leased using an existing building — but it must be in downtown New Bedford.
Sen. Montigny said he believes a new BCC campus would help drive another wave of economic development downtown.
In addition to Sen. Montigny, local legislators including Reps. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, John F. Quinn, D-Dartmouth, Robert M. Koczera, D-New Bedford, and Stephen R. Canessa, D-New Bedford, all worked to support the expanded BCC campus plan.
Theresa Romanovitch, dean of the BCC New Bedford campus, said she believes there are a lot of spaces downtown that could accommodate the expanded school.
“We’re so excited that everyone has gotten behind building a campus for the community,” Ms. Romanovitch said. She said she believes continuing the school’s presence at the Star Store is important both because students identify with the location and it maintains BCC’s ties to UMass Dartmouth, which has a satellite program there.
“Colleges bring tremendous growth to downtown areas,” Mayor Lang said, “not just as an economic development project, but they build traffic that sustains the downtown.”
In addition, he said, colleges train young people so they can aspire to higher-paying jobs, and “Economic development begets other economic development … and will help the tax base,” Mayor Lang said.
Mr. Morrissey said he looks forward to working with BCC on its expansion.
“Any $10 million construction project is an important economic catalyst; beyond construction jobs, permanent jobs will follow. In addition, the campus will bring more than a thousand more people downtown each semester,” Mr. Morrissey said.
Contact Joe Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org
May 07, 2008
Source URL http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080507/NEWS/805070347/1018/ARCHIVE
By Joe Cohen