New Digs

Pellissippi purchases property on Hwy. 321 for new Blount campus

From Press reports

Pellissippi State Technical Community College is one major step closer to building a new campus in Blount County. The state of Tennessee has completed its purchase of property for the college to relocate and expand its current site, Blount County Center.

“Pellissippi State is committed to improving the educational opportunities available to Blount County residents,” said Allen Edwards, president of Pellissippi State. “Building the new campus supports our mission and dedication to higher education in East Tennessee.”

The new campus is projected to cost more than $22 million, with $17.2 million coming from the state and more than $2.9 million coming from the sale of the Blount County Center property on Middlesettlements Road in Alcoa.

The remaining $2 million needed to complete the facility will come from funds raised by the Pellissippi State Foundation. The Foundation has already begun a major gifts campaign that includes the project.

“With the additional giving for the Blount County campaign, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the optimal campus, which is something that doesn’t come along every day,” said Jerome Moon, Foundation Board of Trustees member.

The 39.5-acre property was purchased from James A. Bumgarner and Dorothy B. Petree for approximately $1.18 million. The land is located on Highway 321, with access from South Old Grey Ridge Road and Nelson Lane. The property fronts both sides of Highway 321, with about 3.5 acres on one side of the road and the remainder on the other side.

“When I was first approached about selling the Bumgarner family farm, I thought that a college campus would be a good addition to the community and that my father would be pleased,” said Dorothy Petree. “I taught in public schools for 34 years. Our daughters are teachers, too. Given our family history, I think we’d all be proud to help generate educational opportunities for this area.”

After requesting and receiving input from a community site advisory committee, Pellissippi State looked at a number of properties in Blount County before deciding on the Highway 321 location.

“All of the sites were excellent,” said Moon, who also is chair of the site advisory committee, “but with considerable community input, the decision made was the best fit for the community and the college’s future. This site will allow for expansion and growth within the community.”

“Pellissippi State has been looking and planning for a new campus for Blount County for a long time,” said Steve West, co-chair of the Blount County portion of the major gifts campaign. “During this time, we feel that we found the best location to fill the needs of Blount County and area students. We have also used this time to visualize what a true college campus should look and feel like. This is the next exciting step in higher education for Blount County.”

“Really, all of this has been made possible by the good people of Blount County,” said Edwards. “Without the support of the Blount County Commission, who authorized us in 1999 to use the proceeds from the sale of the current Blount County Center for the construction and improvement of a new facility, we would never have been able to pursue this dream.

“This turns out to be a wonderful win-win situation for all involved. We look forward to completing the arrangements for the sale of the current site and moving forward with our new campus.”

Pellissippi State has offered classes in Blount County since 1985. The satellite campus has been housed at the former Bungalow Elementary School building since 1991. While that location served the needs of the college for many years, the institution has outgrown the aging facility.

“This has been a great home for us for the last 17 years, but with increasing enrollment and the desire for more programs in Blount County, the need for a new campus is ever-present,” said Bill Eanes, assistant dean of the Blount County Center. “We look forward to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for Pellissippi State and Blount County.”

Currently, more than 700 students attend classes at the Blount County Center. Yet roughly 1,300 Pellissippi State students list Blount County as their residence. A new, expanded facility will allow more students to attend classes nearer to where they live.

“As someone who loves Blount County, I would like to see a new Pellissippi campus built there,” said Laura McCulloch, a student at the Blount County Center. “Then maybe more local students would choose to stay close to home like I did.”

The new facility will have more science labs, traditional classrooms and computer classrooms than are currently available. It will also include an art studio, a multipurpose fitness room and an auditorium and stage area for performances and speakers. The campus also will provide a manufacturing technology lab to train students for employment in area businesses and to allow people in the workforce to continue to upgrade their skills.

“Having the space in Blount County will allow us to be more responsive to the training needs of local business and industry,” said Teri Brahams, executive director of Business and Community Services at Pellissippi State. “The lab will be state of the art and flexible, which will allow us to meet a myriad of training needs both now and in the future.”

The state of Tennessee has awarded the design contract to Community Tectonics and Cope Associates as a joint venture and the construction management contract to Messer Construction Company.

The college plans to break ground later this year and will offer classes for the first time in the fall of 2010.

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