Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Bad weather in recent months has delayed completion of the New College Institute (NCI) building under construction on the Baldwin Block uptown.
Construction is progressing, however, and Martinsville City Council members were pleased with what they saw during a tour of the building on Tuesday.
The building was expected to be finished in mid-May. NCI Executive Director William Wampler said he now expects construction to be completed no later than mid-July, although he hopes it can be finished by the end of June.
NCI will occupy the building soon after it is completed, but a formal grand opening ceremony probably will not be held until after Labor Day. Wampler said institute officials want people attending the opening to be able to see students using the building.
The three-story, roughly 52,000-square-foot building will be the first built specifically for NCI. It will house programs that the institute is developing in advanced manufacturing, health care technology and entrepreneurship.
The building also will contain NCI’s administrative offices and spaces for public events. The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) and the uptown visitor’s center also will move into the structure.
NCI has estimated the building’s total cost at $18.7 million. That takes into account all expenses, from construction to installing equipment and furniture, according to Wampler.
Of that amount, $16.7 million is being covered by grants awarded to NCI from the state and various organizations. A $2 million “Building on Baldwin” fundraising campaign is under way to cover the remainder.
More than $1.7 million worth of the latest electronic technology, including educational and audio-video equipment, will be installed in the building, said Wampler. He said fiber-optic communications systems being installed there should be useful for at least 20 years, despite technology changing rapidly.
“We’ve probably overdesigned” the technology, Wampler said.
“That’s not possible,” Vice Mayor Gene Teague replied.
More than 21,000 bricks recovered from the former Bassett Superior Lines plant destroyed by fire two years ago were recovered and incorporated into the new building’s construction, Wampler said.
Wood reclaimed from another former building in the area will be part of the building’s reception desk, he said. He declined to identify the building yet.
The reclaimed building materials will help visitors recall Martinsville-Henry County history, as will an interior wall of the building, Wampler said.
“It will be up to the community to decide” what pictures and other relics are displayed on the wall, although a committee is delving into that now, he said.
Wampler showed council members the 5,200-square-foot bay that will have advanced manufacturing equipment on which students will learn skills to work for local companies making window film and titanium products.
Teague asked how NCI would respond if the community attracts a company not involved in making those products.
Wampler responded that about 80 percent of advanced manufacturing skills are transferable among industries.
Still, there will be a small amount of space on the Baldwin Block where the building eventually can be expanded, if necessary, to provide students with skills for other types of companies, he said.
Council members were impressed with views of Martinsville seen at windows in the building, especially those on the third floor where NCI and the EDC will have their administrative offices. From part of that floor, the Patriot Centre industrial park near Collinsville can be seen in the background.
Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Wayne Knox said most questions he receives about the building is about the views.
“They are beautiful,” Knox said.
Other attractions that Wampler pointed out to council members included classrooms and other learning spaces, plus mini-amphitheaters outside that can be used for learning.
The state awarded Martinsville a $700,000 Community Development Block Grant last year toward the NCI building’s construction. Under rules for block grants, the city had to apply for the money on the institute’s behalf.
The city donated the Baldwin Block to NCI for the new building.
“We’re trying to be good stewards of the property you gave us,” Wampler told the council after the tour.
“You’ve been excellent stewards,” Teague replied.
Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge said she, too, is impressed with the building but for energy-efficiency purposes, she would have liked for solar technology to have been integrated into it.
Teague told Hodge that improvements can be made to the building in the future.