Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

July 10, 2014

Downtown foot traffic Students can make a big difference

There has been a lot of talk in recent months about the importance of bringing additional foot traffic back into the downtown areas of Bluefield and Princeton. And college students can certainly play a significant role in helping to revitalize the two downtown areas.

That’s why we are pleased to see that efforts are continuing in both Bluefield and Princeton to bring youthful college students back into the respective downtowns. In the city of Bluefield, Assistant City Manager Josh Cline says officials are still working with Bluefield State College on several ideas that came out of the recent Blueprint Communities planning sessions. This includes a plan for the college to hold classes in the downtown area at the existing Research and Development Corporation building, also known as the old Appalachian Power building. Cline says the college is looking at bringing evening classes and community-based classes to the downtown area. He says the city also is working with the college on trying to find ways to house more college students in the city limits of Bluefield.

Given the close proximity of Bluefield State College to the downtown, holding some college courses in the downtown area while encouraging greater student and staff participation in city activities only makes good sense.

And in the city of Princeton, plans appear to be finally on track to get New River Community and Technical College up and running on Mercer Street by this fall. This plan is of particular importance. Bringing a college campus — and hundreds of college students — to downtown Princeton fits perfectly into the ongoing downtown revitalization efforts underway by members of the Princeton Renaissance Committee.

A public hearing date has now been set to receive input on the proposed lease agreement between the city and the college. The plan would allow New River Community and Technical College to occupy all of the old First Community Bank building on Mercer Street. The public hearing will be held on July 17 at 7 p.m.

Under the proposed lease agreement, the college would pay the city $11,850 a month, according to City Attorney Paul Cassell. He adds that a small  portion of the lease payment will be credited to the college upon their ultimate purchase of the bank building property from the city.

Dr. Marshall Washington, president of New River Community and Technical College, says the institution is actively looking at its finances and looking at purchasing the building with some private donations and perhaps a future state bond that would become available.

The college hopes to move into the former bank building by this fall, Campus Dean Steve Wise said Monday. He estimates the initial enrollment will be about 175 students. But within three to five years, this figure could grow to between 400 to 500 students.

That’s great news for Princeton, and those volunteers involved with the ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.

We urge city officials in both Bluefield and Princeton to proceed with vigor on their individual plans. Getting more young people back into the respective downtowns is a win-win for all involved.

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