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College agrees to 5-year lease at Blue Ridge

December 14, 2000

College agrees to 5-year lease at Blue Ridge



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Shepherd College officials told the Martinsburg City Council Thursday they have concluded lease negotiations to allow their community and technical college to move from Shepherdstown into the abandoned Blue Ridge Outlet Center.

"As of today, we have agreement on all business terms," college attorney Alan Perdue told council members.

The agreement to lease 19,200 square feet of one part of the abandoned outlet mall will run for five years, Perdue said.

The college has the option to renew the lease for five more years, then five years after that.

The initial lease will cost $12 per square foot, or $234,000 per year. The costs have a built-in escalator of 2 percent per year.

"I think there are people in Charleston who think we paid too much, but with the facilities we got and the parking and all, yes, I think we got a good deal," Shepherd College President David Dunlop said.

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Although the formal documents will not be signed until next month, plans are moving ahead to start moving into the facility. State officials, who must approve all leases, also have given their blessing, Perdue said.

The officials appeared before council members to ask for the $92,000 the city had pledged earlier this year to bring the community and technical college to the city.

"Without Martinsburg's support, this wouldn't have happened," Dunlop told the council members.

The city's money will be used to renovate the space so the college can begin operations.

The college has been promised state money the first year, which it plans to use for renovations. But that money will not be available until after the Legislature meets, probably in the spring, Dunlop said.

Officials had hoped to have students on the campus in January, but the process of getting the move organized took longer than expected.

Community and Technical College President Pete Checkovich said about 300 to 400 students can be expected in the fall and about 600 by the end of 2001.

Councilman Glenville Twigg raised the issue of the length of the lease, noting public concerns had been raised that the owner could leave after five years. Perdue said the 15-year package should satisfy those concerns.

Computer labs and administrative offices will be the first to move into the community and technical college, with criminal justice and paralegal classes to follow. More classes will be added as the college grows.

College officials pegged the initial five-year costs of the move at about $3.1 million. They had found sources to cover the costs, but a governing board over college universities said they could not ask the Legislature for $250,000, as had been planned in the second and third years.

The college has not found a way to make up that difference, Dunlop said.

"We've been so focused on getting this lease finished," Dunlop said.

He said officials believe enrollment will grow beyond the college's conservative estimates to provide the money to meet the costs.

A council committee will meet to discuss the issue, although no date has been set. A vote on sending the money to the college is scheduled for Jan. 11

Perdue said college officials hope to start work at the site Jan. 16 or earlier.

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