BridgeValley Community and Technical College’s president said Friday the Staats building on Charleston’s West Side “is probably not No. 1” anymore among possible sites to relocate most of the South Charleston campus.
“I think we’re making a more general look now,” President Eunice Bellinger said.
Tighe Bullock, managing member of Crawford Holdings LLC, said he thinks the college is no longer interested in the Staats building. Crawford Holdings owns and has been renovating the building, which used to house the Staats Hospital.
BridgeValley’s Board of Governors voted in May 2018 to move to the Staats building, but that move was subject to “feasibility studies” and further board approval of costs.
The board voted Friday to authorize college administrators to negotiate extending the school’s “service agreements” with the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston.
The delay in leaving the Tech Park has been caused by “nothing in particular,” Bellinger said. “It just takes longer than what we thought.”
She said the current rental agreement with the Tech Park expires at the end of next academic year, in the spring of 2021.
As of last year, BridgeValley was paying the Tech Park about $49,300 monthly for a “service facility fee” to use Building 2000, and about $8,000 a month for Building 704.
In 2017, the school agreed to pay nearly $1.7 million to the Tech Park after the Tech Park alleged the school hadn’t paid millions of dollars in rent for more than two years, and threatened to evict the school.
Tech Park board Chairman David Hendrickson said Friday he doesn’t know what the park might charge in rent for the extension, but he praised the idea of BridgeValley staying put.
“BridgeValley is a real asset to the park,” he said.
Bullock said, “we spent about the last year — more than the last year — trying to make things work, and it seemed like there was one thing after the other.”
He said, “we got it really close to the finish line a couple times and just couldn’t seem to make things work, and I wish them the best in their efforts.”
BrudgeValley Vice President of Academic Affairs Peter Soscia, who said he had no information to provide Friday, said in March that things were moving more slowly than expected regarding the relocation. He said at the time that New Market Tax Credits hadn’t yet been awarded.
“It’s not a small sum,” Soscia said of those credits’ worth. He said that, if they didn’t come through, “we’d have to evaluate things.”
Bullock said Friday that New Market Tax Credit discussions was still ongoing.
Also Friday, the board approved authorizing college administrators “to continue to consider new locations for the South Charleston campus.”
Bellinger said the properties under consideration will still be in the city of Charleston.
“We have to be fiscally responsible for our students’ money, and we’re going to find the very best option that we can and that’s always the bottom line,” she said.
Both board votes, which were voice votes with no nays heard, came after board members spent about an hour in closed session. They claimed exemptions to open meetings laws to discuss “the purchase, sale or lease of property,” an extension of the Tech Park service agreements and new campus locations in Charleston.
Board members Greg Barker, Jane Harkins and Srini Matam were absent.
As for the Staats building, Bullock said, “we’re going to go back to some of our original ideas.”
He said these include having shops on the first floor, apartments on the second and third, and event space on the top floor.