Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


June 23, 2013

Lease agreement — College, city combo a win-win

— Word of a joint lease agreement between the city of Princeton and New River Community and Technical College is welcomed, and represents the best possible outcome for ongoing revitalization efforts on Mercer Street.

If all goes as planned, the old First Community Bank building on Mercer Street will now be home to both a city hall, and a new downtown campus for New River Community and Technical College. This outcome would be a win-win for all parties involved, and would provide a tremendous boost to the downtown area.

Both the college and the city were interested in the old bank building. But the city purchased the structure in 2012, and plans were announced for the relocation of city hall to the structure. However, City Manager Elke Doom confirmed last week that the city is finalizing a lease agreement with New River Community and Technical College that would allow for the creation of a downtown campus in the old bank building area in addition to a new city hall.

“We are finalizing the lease agreement with New River Community College to join us in the new city hall,” Doom said. “We are ready to go out for bid on the city hall/New River renovations with the intention that all work will be complete in the 2013 calendar year.”

Princeton Mayor Patricia “Pat” Wilson correctly describes the agreement as a “win-win” for people who wanted to see either city hall or the college on Mercer Street. We agree. There was certainly some disagreement as to whether a city hall or college would be better suited for the location. Now it looks like we could get the best of both worlds. And that’s great news for the downtown area.

The college is considering a five-year lease with two one-year renewal options. New River is seeking additional space in anticipation of growing enrollment. The new location will allow college officials to double the square footage of classroom and office space, according to Steve Wise, the campus dean.

He says the new location could triple enrollment at the college while allowing for increased flexibility in program offerings. The college currently has 150 students in Mercer County, and officials estimate the move to Mercer Street could increase this number to 450 or 500.

Such an expansion would be tremendous news to both the college and the greater Princeton community. And an influx of hundreds of college students to the Mercer Street area would provide a tremendous boon to downtown merchants.

It is our hope that a successful lease can be inked between the city and the college. A combined city hall/college campus would be a wonderful win for all parties involved. And this would go a long way toward helping to advance ongoing revitalization efforts on Mercer Street.

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