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NCI building will be dedicated Sept. 12
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New College Institute Associate Director and Chief Academic Officer Leanna Blevins (far left) shows board members, employees and others the lobby of NCI’s new building under construction on the Baldwin Block uptown during a tour Wednesday. At right is the wall that will include historical photos of the block during its heyday as a major commerce center for the local black community. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Mark your calendars.

The place: 191 Fayette St.

The date: Sept. 12.

The time: To be determined.

But New College Institute (NCI) officials think a good time will be had by all when the school’s long-awaited new building uptown is dedicated that day.

Various other NCI events are being planned for the weekend, including a gala for those who have donated more than $25,000 toward construction and tours for the public, according to Debbie Lewis, development officer for the New College Foundation, the institute’s private fundraising arm.

The three-story, roughly 52,000-square-foot building on the Baldwin Block, between Fayette, West Church, Market and Moss streets, is the first to be built specifically for NCI. Construction is expected to be finished soon.

Although the building has a main entrance facing a parking lot along West Church, it has another main entrance along Fayette. NCI Executive Director William Wampler said 191 Fayette is the official city-assigned address.

The building will host the institute’s administrative offices and programs being established in advanced manufacturing, health care technology and entrepreneurship.

The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., the Piedmont Governor’s School and the uptown visitors center will move into the building, which also will have indoor and outdoor spaces for special events and public gatherings. Those include a large courtyard, two small amphitheaters and a larger rectangular stage.

NCI board members toured the $18.7-million building on Wednesday and seemed impressed.

Board member Jay Edelen said he thinks it will be the most modern building in the state after the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a research center near Petersburg for high-tech companies.

NCI’s advanced manufacturing program is intended to train workers for jobs with such firms.

As construction has progressed in recent weeks, floor tiles, carpeting, light fixtures and other amenities have been installed. Some furnishings were expected to arrive that day, officials said.

The building will contain at least $2 million worth of the latest electronic educational technology, Wampler said.

According to Wampler, when George Mason University President Angel Cabrera recently toured the building, he said, “I don’t have that (much technology) on my campus.” That university has four campuses.

NCI Associate Director and Chief Academic Officer Leanna Blevins said the building will not have traditional classrooms but rather “collaborate” spaces designed to help students help each other learn.

An inside wall near the lobby will use photos provided by the Fayette Area Historical Initiative to highlight the history of the Baldwin Block, which once was a major center of commerce for the black community. The photos will be rotated quarterly, Wampler said.

A permanent outdoor mural that also highlights the block’s history will be created eventually, he said.

When the history presentations are developed, they will be “something you all will be proud” to present to the community, Wampler told the board.

Of the building’s $18.7 million cost, the state and various organizations are covering about $16.7 million.

A $2 million “Building on Baldwin” fundraising campaign was launched to cover the rest.

Lewis said a total of $2,350,793 has been raised through the campaign from various sources.

Wampler praised Lewis’ fundraising abilities. Comparing the campaign to a baseball game, he said she hit the ball so hard that it soared through the air and “knocked the (stadium) lights out.”

He added that he wants to ensure donors that money they contributed for the building’s construction “will pay dividends for this community” over the long term because Martinsville-Henry County will have a modern educational facility training people for jobs of the future.

Leases for floor space in the building, which the New College Foundation will own, still are being prepared.

Like other tenants, NCI will lease space, although the building is being built for the institute. Wampler estimated NCI will pay about $383,000 per year, based on a lease of about $8.50 per square foot.

The latter amount is based on what the state is willing to pay, he indicated. He called it “a reasonable amount.”

Wampler said the state “presumably” will cover the lease.

But if the state reduces NCI’s funding and not enough state money is available to fully pay the lease, the institute will have to find the money elsewhere in its budget, he said.


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