For New River Community and Technical College, the search for permanent campus location in Mercer County has been long and at times frustrating, but a new home may be within reach.
New River Community and Technical College was created by the legislature in 2003 with campuses in Mercer, Raleigh, Nicholas and Greenbrier Counties. Since its inception, the Mercer County Campus has been co-located with another institution. Initially it was located on the campus of Bluefield State College, and in 2009 it moved into the Mercer County Technical Education Center in Princeton.
“We have enjoyed a wonderful partnership with the Mercer County Technical Education Center over these past few years,” said Mercer County Dean Steve Wise. “Linda Cox has worked very hard to accommodate our expanding space needs at the same time her space needs have been growing. We need to move to be able to grow, and the Technical Education Center will certainly be able to make good use of the space we vacate.”
New River Community and Technical College was in negotiations to purchase the former Community Bank building in downtown Princeton when the City of Princeton decided to purchase the building for a new city hall. Later, city officials approached the college about leasing part of the renovated space for use as a temporary Mercer County Campus until a permanent location could be found. Although that was not the ideal solution, it was a least a step in the right direction, and New River began negotiations to work out a lease arrangement.
However, in recent weeks city officials have been deliberating another option that would make it possible for New River to purchase the building and have a permanent location for the Mercer County Campus. The City of Princeton has been offered the former Dean Company property, which is large enough to accommodate all city offices and recreational facilities. If they decide to move forward with that plan, New River is ready to negotiate a purchase of the bank building.
According to New River President L. Marshall Washington, the college will meet with the Building Commission within the next week or so to start negotiations, and he would like to present a proposal to New River’s Board of Governors before the end of February. He said that a private donor has come forward to help the college finance the purchase.
The outcome could make a huge difference for New River’s students and the downtown area.
“Our students will enjoy having a more collegiate learning environment and having room to study between classes. Informal conversations between students, faculty and staff will be enhanced as we create space for that to happen. Easier access to technology will enhance the learning experience for our students. We will be able to expand the level of student services which will enrich the learning experience for our students,” Wise said.
Washington said he is enthusiastic about having a permanent location in downtown Princeton that will give the college a real foothold in the community from which to serve students from across Mercer County and to solidify partnerships with Bluefield State College and Concord University.
“We are excited to make a significant contribution to the ongoing economic development efforts on Mercer Street. We are looking forward to adding momentum to the growth and improvements that characterize downtown Princeton. This is an ideal location for a community and technical college,” Wise added.
New River Community and Technical College serves nine counties in southeastern West Virginia. Administrative offices are located in Beckley.