HAMLET — Richmond Community College’s Board of Trustees met this week inside the DeWitt Building on campus, but it’s the potential for another RCC building off campus that is generating buzz.
RCC President Dr. Dale McInnis said the city of Rockingham has approached the college about the potential of building a satellite campus downtown where the R.W. Goodman Co. building currently sits.
“We’ve been having conversations with the leadership of Rockingham about investigating opportunities for a college facility in downtown Rockingham,” said McInnis. “Those conversations are continuing”
McInnis said that details at this juncture — such as cost and design — are scarce, but that there is great interest in pursuing the concept, and the college is interested in seeing what opportunities will present themselves in the future regarding the project.
“The city approached us about the possibility of our interest in an instructional building there, so we’ve had some conversations about potentially a school of business and information technology being located there,” said McInnis. “Right now we don’t have any funding attached to it. We don’t have any firm budget. It’s just a concept. So we’re trying to see if we can attract some support, some financial support for that so that we can begin to move forward with it.”
McInnis admitted it’s hard to move forward with a project of this magnitude until money is put behind it. Once funding could be secured, however, there will be a product to show the public what the college and city have as far as a vision for the building.
“We’re trying to see if there’s enough traction to do something. Right now, the conceptual location will be where the Goodman property is. Going into more detail than that would cause more confusion than clarification,” McInnis said. “We’re gonna continue to have the conversation, and they reached out to us, which we really appreciate. The goal would be to give us more space and help generate activity in downtown Rockingham simultaneously and revitalize that area. It would be a win-win.”
The RCC president said money from the Connect N.C. bond referendum, which will be voted on in March, would not be the complete fund source for the project if it moves forward but could potentially provide some of it. A model or an artist’s rendering of what the building could possibly look like is also up for discussion.
“We can’t make a final decision on that until we get some budgets and get some details worked out for designing costs. So we’ll continue to talk about it and keep it on the agenda, and as new information comes up it’ll be provided,” McInnis said. “There have been some really rough drawings, but nothing that is presentable, and it’s all been fluid. So everything that we’ve looked at we’ve sort of kicked back and said, ‘It’s recursive. No let’s do this, no let’s do this.’ So I don’t have anything I can show you that represents what the building would look like. It’s in that evolutionary stage where we sort of see the idea growing and building and figuring out what we can and can’t do.”
McInnis reiterated that the possibility of moving a satellite campus to downtown Rockingham is still in the preliminary stages, but a lot of energy and excitement about the idea is already behind it. He said it would free up space on the main campus in Hamlet as well as afford the ability to spotlight some key programs in the business and information technology fields.
The move would also help in revitalizing the downtown area of Rockingham — something the city and groups such as the Rockingham Downtown Corp. have been working toward for years. But for McInnis, his priorities lie on the educational side.
“Our focus, and obviously it would generate foot traffic, it generates interest, it generates potential business, but there’s way too many variables in there for me to estimate,” he said. “I wouldn’t begin to try and put a dollar amount or even a volume amount attached to that. I think this is a great example of economic development and educational opportunity intersecting potentially, so our focus is right now making sure it would work on an educational basis.
“It would really be a good fit with what we’re trying to do, and if that works, then it’ll bring people. The people will come. Obviously there’s an interest in doing both sides of that. We’ll continue as this thing develops and grows and we get something firm, we’ll make sure the public has a chance to see exactly what we’re talking about, because I think there will be a lot of support and a lot of interest in it.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674.