Wake Tech begins expansion of northern campus

sbarr@newsobserver.com mquillin@newsobserver.comApril 15, 2014 

The expansion on Wake Tech’s northern campus includes a building that will include a library, classrooms and a tutoring center.

WAKE TECHNICAL COMMUNITY COLLEGE

— Officials on Tuesday kicked off the first wave of an expansion at Wake Tech’s northern campus that is expected to increase enrollment by thousands of students.

The expansion, funded by a 2012 Wake County bond referendum, will help Wake Tech prepare students for an evolving job market, President Stephen Scott said.

“The job market changes,” he said. “We have to be flexible and do what is needed today. That’s where a community college comes in.”

The expansion includes an 87,000-square-foot instructional building that will feature a library and learning commons, classrooms, a tutoring center and disability services.

“We expect this next building to become the heart of our campus,” Gayle Greene, senior vice president for the campus, said at a groundbreaking Tuesday.

Though rain forced the ceremony inside, Wake Tech was ready with a back-up plan. Instead of dirt, officials dug their golden shovels into sand boxes surrounded by plants, a display set up inside just for the occasion.

The ceremony also marked the start of construction on a regional plant that will include a classroom for teaching skilled trades such as construction management, welding and heating and air conditioning. Right now, those programs are offered only on Wake Tech’s main campus, south of downtown Raleigh.

Officials expect construction on the buildings, as well as a 782-space parking deck and two pedestrian bridges, to be completed by fall 2015 for $47.5 million.

Tuesday’s event celebrated the start of the first of two phases of construction that will transform the northern campus. The campus will get about $135 million of the $210.2 million Wake County appropriated to the community college, including $200 million from a 2012 bond referendum and $10.2 million in cash from the county.

The rest of the $210.2 million will be used to expand Wake Tech’s public safety education campus, make repairs and renovations on the main campus, and build the first building on the RTP campus.

By 2016, officials expect the northern campus will have expanded again, adding three more bond-funded buildings to house labs for the sciences and skilled trades, and classrooms for the health sciences, STEM courses, baking and pastry arts, fitness science, and business administration.

President Stephen Scott said the college has worked closely with employers to adjust its plans and make sure the programs and courses it offers will help prepare students to do the work that companies need, including skilled trades.

“Construction is coming back, so we need heating and air conditioning. We need electrical work. We need plumbing. We need construction management,” he said.

On the new campus, Scott said, plumbing students also will learn electrical skills because today’s plumbing often uses electronic sensors instead of faucets and flushing handles.

Scott also said that what most people still call a library will be used less for storing books than for gaining access to the hundreds of databases to which Wake Tech subscribes. That way, students can get the most current information in their field.

The new buildings on the northern campus will be designed to LEED energy conservation standards, as the other buildings on the property have been.

Enrollment has doubled at the campus since it opened in 2007, from 6,491 students to 13,155 last year. The expansion is expected to increase enrollment to more than 17,000 students in 2016-2017.

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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