NPC board approves $15M cam­pus plan

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - JAY BELL

Na­tional Park Col­lege’s board of trustees ap­proved a $15 mil­lion plan on Tues­day to com­plete the first phase of a cam­pus ex­pan­sion with in­tent to fi­nal­ize its de­tails within the com­ing months.

Trustees passed a res­o­lu­tion Tues­day to ap­prove Phase I of the col­lege’s cam­pus ex­pan­sion and master plan­ning project. The res­o­lu­tion states the cost of the project is not to ex­ceed $15 mil­lion.

The first phase will in­clude a new stu­dent com­mons build­ing on the west end of the cam­pus, a new road­way from Moun­tain Pine Road, re­lo­ca­tion of park­ing spaces from the cen­tral grounds to the western edge of the cam­pus, im­prove­ments in the col­lege and high school tech­ni­cal pro­grams and in­te­rior ren­o­va­tions to Ger­ald Fisher Cam­pus Cen­ter. Trustee Jim Hale, chair­man of the board’s build­ing and cam­pus de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee, and ar­chi­tect John McMor­ran, with Lewis Ar­chi­tects En­gi­neers in Little Rock, of­fered the latest de­tails of the project Tues­day dur­ing a spe­cial called meet­ing in the Fisher build­ing.

“There would be some ren­o­va­tions that would take place and some re­mod­el­ing in this project as well,” Hale said. “So, when all of this is done, we will have more than just some new con­struc­tion. We will have a com­pre­hen­sive re­mod­el­ing and ren­o­va­tion project that would give us some new op­por­tu­ni­ties for class­rooms and new labs.”

Hale made a mo­tion dur­ing the meet­ing to ap­prove the res­o­lu­tion, which is, in prac­tice, a con­cept for the planned project. The mo­tion was sec­onded by trustee Mike Bush and ap­proved by a unan­i­mous vote of 9-0.

NPC Pres­i­dent John Ho­gan said the project is in­te­gral to ex­pand­ing the col­lege’s ap­peal to achieve future growth. He said the project will al­low the col­lege to of­fer a broad ap­peal and put it in the best po­si­tion to con­tinue suc­cess.

“To keep stu­dent suc­cess as the cen­ter of our value is what is go­ing to mat­ter in our suc­cess,” Ho­gan said. “That’s what this board has ap­proved today.”

Hale said the Stephens fi­nan­cial ser­vices firm in Little Rock ad­vised the col­lege could gen­er­ate $12 mil­lion from re­fi­nanc­ing cur­rent bonds. Ho­gan and trustees said they in­tend to pur­sue the project without pur­su­ing a mill­age in­crease.

The col­lege sought an in­crease from 0.8 mill to 2.5 mills in 2013 to con­struct a cam­pus for high school and col­lege tech­ni­cal pro­grams. The mea­sure failed by a tally of 2,899 votes against the tax in­crease and 1,932 votes cast in fa­vor of the mill­age.

Hale said Steve Trusty, vice pres­i­dent for fi­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion, was com­fort­able with de­vot­ing $2.5 mil­lion from more than $5 mil­lion in the re­serve fund and the col­lege’s ex­ist­ing mill­age fund to­ward the project. An­other $500,000 could be uti­lized from $1 mil­lion avail­able in the col­lege’s book­store fund.

The 48,000 square feet planned for the learn­ing com­mons com­plex is al­most as large as the Fred­er­ick M. Dierks Cen­ter for Nurs­ing and Health Sciences, which was com­pleted in 2009 at a cost

of $8 mil­lion. McMor­ran said the cost of build­ing the new road­way of less than half a mile from Moun­tain Pine Road could ap­proach $1 mil­lion.

The first floor of the two-story com­mons fa­cil­ity would in­clude a new lo­ca­tion for the book­store and a larger food court than cur­rently in place on the first floor of the Fisher build­ing. Hale said the open spaces for stu­dent gath­er­ing and study ar­eas are twice as large as sim­i­lar space in the Dierks build­ing.

The ground floor will also in­clude two flex­i­ble, con­fer­ence-sized class­rooms for about 120 seats each. Mov­able walls will al­low for the rooms to be joined for large events, but will not in­clude tiered seat­ing as is avail­able in the Dr. Martin Eisele Au­di­to­rium inside Dierks.

The sec­ond floor will fea­ture two more large class­rooms and more than 40 pro­jected of­fices for stu­dent ser­vices. The com­mons is planned as a “one-stop shop” for stu­dent needs.

Trustees ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion last week to en­gage Hill and Cox Con­struc­tion as the col­lege’s con­struc­tion man­ager con­tin­gent upon ap­proval of the Arkansas Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil in Septem­ber. The col­lege’s agree­ments with Hill and Cox, Lewis and Stephens, as bond un­der­writer, are con­tin­gent upon state ap­proval of the fi­nal project. Hale said the col­lege has had suc­cess with all three part­ners in pre­vi­ous projects.

De­signs for the new build­ing and road­way will be fi­nal­ized in the com­ing months, which will al­low Hill and Cox to ob­tain bids for the project. State ap­proval could be ob­tained by the Jan­uary meet­ing of the Arkansas Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Co­or­di­nat­ing Board.

Hale said con­struc­tion is ex­pected to take at least 16-18 months. The col­lege plans to com­plete the com­mons project by Au­gust 2019 for the fall se­mes­ter of the 2019-20 aca­demic year.

Ren­o­va­tions to the Fisher build­ing would al­low the In­no­va­tive Tech­nolo­gies Cen­ter to re­lo­cate from an off-cam­pus site on Al­bert Pike Road to the space va­cated by the book­store. The col­lege’s hos­pi­tal­ity pro­gram would be able to re­lo­cate to the cur­rent food court.

Half the sec­ond and third floors would re­main as of­fice space, but the other half could be ren­o­vated into four large class­rooms in ad­di­tion to the flex­i­ble class­rooms in the com­mons.

Some park­ing will re­main in the cen­tral area of the cam­pus af­ter Phase I. McMor­ran said the long-term plan is to cre­ate a safer, pedes­trian-friendly plaza in the cen­ter of cam­pus with a num­ber of walk­ways and green space more akin to a univer­sity cam­pus.

Hale said the col­lege plans to ex­am­ine the fea­si­bil­ity of new con­struc­tion, ren­o­va­tions and equip­ment needs for the tech­ni­cal pro­grams in the spring. He said Phase I could in­clude a new tech­ni­cal fa­cil­ity near the new road­way.

“We are feel­ing some strate­gic un­cer­tainty about op­ti­miz­ing our op­por­tu­nity to in­vest in that build­ing plan,” Ho­gan said. “For ex­am­ple, are the things we are of­fer­ing now in the Na­tional Park Tech­nol­ogy Cen­ter, how rel­e­vant are those go­ing to be in terms of pro­duc­ing work and pro­duc­ing wealth five years from now? Ten years from now?

“We have some fun­da­men­tal ques­tions to an­swer be­fore we could say, ‘Here is our game plan with re­spect to some of the fa­cil­ity ques­tions that are left from Qua­paw (Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute fa­cil­i­ties).’”

Chair­man For­rest Spicher said the col­lege is the so­lu­tion to help­ing Gar­land County im­prove its av­er­age house­hold in­come. The col­lege cur­rently ranks last among the 10 most pop­u­lous coun­ties in Arkansas.

“The in­ter­me­di­ate step is stu­dent suc­cess,” Spicher said. “We want them to stay here, work, have a pro­duc­tive life and make a good living. It doesn’t mat­ter what their trade is or what their oc­cu­pa­tion or ca­reer is. In the end, this project and the ones that will fol­low will make a dif­fer­ence in this com­mu­nity and we will see more eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity.”

The Sentinel-Record/Mara Kuhn

CAM­PUS DE­VEL­OP­MENT: Na­tional Park Col­lege trustee Jim Hale, chair­man of the board of trustees’ build­ing and cam­pus de­vel­op­ment com­mit­tee, pre­sented the latest plans for the col­lege’s pro­posed cap­i­tal project. The col­lege could break ground on the project by Fe­bru­ary or March.

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