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School seeks new campus site

January 24, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Blue Ridge Community and Technical College still is looking for a new campus site nearly two years after the school's governing board formed a land committee to explore expansion.

"The search process is still under way," college President Peter G. Checkovich said this week.

While the college is looking at several properties, it also has asked their current landlord, the Berkeley County Commission, to consider allowing a small expansion at 400 W. Stephen St. for the school's culinary arts program.

The school's current lease with the county for the first floor of the Dunn Building is set to expire in 2012, but there is an option to renew it, county officials said Thursday.

The expansion would be to a second-floor restaurant space, which remains from when the building was part of the Blue Ridge Outlets complex.

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"This isn't a move that we can afford to make whenever we feel like it," Checkovich said of efforts to be duly diligent and make a decision on a new campus site that fits the school's budget.

According to meeting minutes, the college's Board of Governors formed the land committee in April 2007, two months after appearing to lose out on the potential purchase of the former Martin's Food Market/CVS Pharmacy property along South Raleigh Street in Martinsburg.

The Berkeley County Commission voted in February 2007 to buy the property, purchasing it for $3.15 million.

Since then, the college's governing board has considered at least two different properties west of Interstate 81 for a new campus, one near the highway's exit for City Hospital and the other between exits for Apple Harvest Drive and West King Street, according to meeting minutes.

The college announced it had made an offer on one parcel in November, and the land committee was scheduled to discuss a possible real estate purchase this month, according to the school's Web site

Checkovich said Thursday it probably would be three years before the school has a new campus.

Even if the college were to relocate, the school's culinary arts program possibly could stay at the county's building if the county commission ultimately approves amending its lease with the college.

"It all depends on how we like it," Checkovich said.

The hands-on culinary courses at the Dunn Building space would be a training ground for the retail aspects of food service and customer interaction while also acting as a food vendor for county employees, students and residents who are visiting county offices, according to a proposal submitted by Steven Weiss, coordinator of the college's culinary and hospitality program.

After looking at a number of other locations in Martinsburg, Weiss said he concluded the school's current campus would be best.

"When the project is complete, we would be able to offer a world-class culinary education experience within the Eastern Panhandle that may lead to an increase in small businesses within our community," Weiss said in a letter to the county commission.

Weiss currently teaches master chef series courses at the food lab at James Rumsey Technical Institute off W.Va. 9.

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