By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer
NEW BEDFORD — State Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny said today he is putting forward a plan for a new, separate campus for Bristol Community College in this city’s downtown that could triple the college’s existing space, consolidate all operations in one location and act as an economic stimulus.
He said the plan has the backing of the city’s entire legislative delegation and could produce a new facility for BCC in as few as two years, depending on whether the state decides to buy, build or lease a building.
“I’m excited about it. It is one more jewel in the downtown’s crown” and will offer a “whole new base to … students,” he said. “They deserve to have a campus to call their own.”
BCC is headquartered in Fall River. It opened its New Bedford campus in 2001 with 437 students, and now boasts more than 1,500. School officials said the campus is running at 97 percent capacity, with operations spread out in different buildings and classes offered seven days a week and weekday evenings.
The campus offers a range of programs on two major tracks: college degree and work-force training. Depending on how space is measured, the campus occupies 10,000 to 14,000 square feet, while other Massachusetts cities each have up to 1 million square feet of community college space.
Sen. Montigny said he believes BCC needs a new facility ranging in size from a minimum of 22,000 to as much as 40,000 square feet. He said only a rough cost estimate could be made at this time: up to $10 million. It would be financed with state money only.
He pointed to the Star Store campus of UMass Dartmouth that also houses most of BCC’s local operations as an example of how public money can be used to stimulate private investment and lasting economic development.
As a proponent of the Star Store campus, Sen. Montigny said he began work on that project 10 years ago as part of a three-phase plan.
In the first phase, public money was used to leverage private money to take an empty building in a downtown that was not vibrant. In the second phase, private investment followed, creating restaurants, shops and other business activities.
In the coming third phase, he said, “We are ready for a natural expansion of BCC” with “a structure everyone knows is BCC’s campus” to provide worker training and higher education. He said that while the “private sector has bought in,” a new BCC campus will stimulate further investment downtown in housing, entertainment and the arts, and other commercial uses.
“We have one of the finest small-city downtowns in the country,” he said, with what he called natural assets, such as 200-year-old buildings, cobblestone streets and other physical attributes that are connected to the harbor and Buzzards Bay.
He said he views BCC as an important asset with significant potential to train and educate the region’s work force and help people improve their lives.
At a meeting last week conducted by local BCC officials to report on the college’s growth and encourage local groups to support its future plans, college officials said there appears to be a correlation between the amount of community college space in a Massachusetts city and the education level of its residents and per capita income. New Bedford was reported to have less space than other cities by a significant amount and correspondingly low numbers for level of education and income.
Contact Joe Cohen at email@example.com
May 05, 2008
By Joe Cohen