ACC President gives details on school's bond referendum priorities

Alamance Community College President Dr. Algie Gatewood provided members of the Alamance County Capital Oversight Committee a detailed breakdown of where the various ACC bond referendum projects currently stand. Gatewood indicated that the highly-anticipated $9.1 million Biotechnology Center of Excellence to be constructed on the ACC campus is currently in the advanced planning stage. And while that project likely won't be completed until late 2021 or early 2022, Gatewood indicated that the facility will be a "beacon" for the ACC campus.   

At a recent meeting of the Alamance County Capital Oversight Committee, which includes members of the Alamance County Commissioners and the Alamance-Burlington System School Board, Alamance Community College President Dr. Algie Gatewood provided an extensive update on the progress of ACC’s various bond-related projects. ACC is receiving $36.9 million through last fall’s bond referendum for a wide range of projects, including new buildings and expansions to existing spaces. 

Gatewood began with a brief discussion of the Biotechnology Center of Excellence, which will compliment ACC’s Natural and Life Sciences program. The facility, which could reach a capacity of nearly 30,000 square feet, is projected to cost approximately $9.1 million. School officials have met with an architect, and will engage the Construction Manager at Risk who will be overseeing the project in the coming months. 

“There’s a lot of process that has to take place before we can present, or have a rendering, in terms of what it is we want to do,” Gatewood said of the Biotechnology Center of Excellence. We have to do a lot of vetting before this information is placed on this website. We’re in what we call the advanced planning stage.”

Gatewood indicated that while the projected completion date for the facility was the late summer of 2021, he mentioned that the date would likely be pushed out beyond that point three to six months.  

“Now that we have architect on board, they’ve advised us that’s just too fast,” Gatewood said of the Biotechnology Center’s current timeframe. “We need to spend more time upfront in advanced planning to have a more efficient and effective process. That way, we’ll spend less money for things that do not make sense. And we’ll have a building that makes more sense for the programs that we intend to have.”

“We will extend the completion date by some three to six months. It sounds like a long time - it does to me - but in the end, it will make a lot of sense,” Gatewood continued. 

Clark Nixon, a design firm that Gatewood says has “a stellar reputation for designing education buildings,” is assisting ACC with the Biotechnology Center. Gatewood mentioned that Clark Nixon designed N.C. State’s Hunt Library, as well as Wake Technical Community College’s modern North Campus.  

The Biotechnology Center for Excellence, which has a projected bond issuance date of 2020, will supplement ACC’s Biotech, Histotechnology, and Food Science programs. It will include a specialized Greenhouse, and will also help ACC with its Cytotechnology, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs. ACC leaders are currently debating exactly where the new facility will be situated on the school’s campus, and whether it will run parallel to Jimmie Kerr Road, run parallel to the I-40/I-85 corridor, or perhaps even be an L-shaped facility that runs along both roadways. 

“This is to be a beacon for the campus. Sort of a gateway for the campus. A great way to advertise (ACC). Right now we’re working on how to situate that building,” Gatewood explained. “Those are things that we’ll work out during this advanced planning stage.” 

Gatewood also went into detail about a proposed Parking Deck that would add approximately 400 much-needed parking spaces to the ACC campus, at a cost of $8.46 million. That particular project is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2021, with a bond issuance date in May, 2020. The Parking Deck envisioned by school leaders includes a public safety substation, projects for enrollment growth, and offsets displaced parking of new construction. 

Gatewood, however, indicated that with the need to get the space desired for the Biotechnology Center for Excellence, ACC may have no choice but to dedicate parking in other parts of the campus without a dedicated Parking Deck. 

“It may not make sense to build a full-fledged parking deck, if we can realize the parking we need to support this new building,” Gatewood explained. “We are looking at three different models. I would hate very much to disappoint the people of Alamance County and not have a parking deck. But I would rather have a building that has the programming to support workforce development, that would be continuous for a long period of time - many, many years - as opposed to a parking deck. 

Gatewood indicated that in a worst-case scenario, ACC would build a building with 16,000 square feet, although the architect has approved up to 28,000 square feet. ACC is applying for Economic Development Grant for $2.4 million. If that materializes, ACC will have the funds available for an additional 5,000 square feet. 

“We believe that we can get some staggered parking,” Gatewood added, discussing an adjacent hill on the ACC campus. “Taking some existing parking that has been reserved for staff for a number of years, we think we can probably get to the number we need. That number is somewhere between an additional 260 to 300 parking spaces. We would look to the City of Graham, and perhaps Alamance County, to discern that. They’ll do their work, and then of course we want to check it. If those two entities have any special requirements, that we meet those requirements.” 

In regards to the new ACC Childcare Center that is part of the bond referendum, Gatewood mentioned that there has been no action taken yet, although the project remains forthcoming. The modernization of classrooms and the library on the ACC campus will be near the end of the term of the entire bond process, and won’t be online for a couple years. The classroom project will including five new classroom and lab spaces, and then renovation of an additional 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, which could be used for two new classrooms for indoor activities or lab space. 

ACC’s new Childcare Center project, which is projected to cost approximately $1 million, is currently scheduled to begin in earnest in the spring of 2020. Bond funds will be issued in the fall of 2021, and the project is set to be completed in the summer of 2022. The project includes renovation of the current space, expanding to 13,095 square feet.

In discussing the proposed Public Safety Training Center on the ACC campus, Gatewood mentioned that school leaders at a point where we need to put a RFP (Request for Proposals) out for an architect. That particular project, like the Biotechnology Center for Excellence and the new high school in the Haw River area, will be Construction Manager at Risk projects. 

“We’re hopeful to present to (ACC’s) Building and Grounds Committee at their next meeting some information on a property where this facility may be housed. We’ll go from there,” Gatewood informed county leaders. 

Gatewood seemed particularly excited about ACC’s proposed Satellite East and Satellite West projects, which will bring satellite campuses to various parts of the county, including Mebane. The Satellite East and West projects began in August, with completion projected in the winter of 2022. Bonds will be issued for this particular project in March, 2021. 

Gatewood indicated that the Satellite East project, which will include Professional Business Services, will be located somewhere in Mebane. The ACC President mentioned that five possible lease locations have been presented thus far, providing ACC options in terms of square footage ranging from 1,500 square feet to 14,000 square feet. Gatewood added that the starting goal is five classrooms per satellite location.

“I think this is an opportune time to bring both of these projects online,” Gatewood said of Satellite East and Satellite West. If you see what is going on in Mebane, they have been very attractive in attracting industries. When you think distance and geography, we probably need to be in Mebane sooner than later.” 

Gatewood concluded by discussing the planned Student Services building on the ACC campus, which is projected to begin in March, 2020 and be completed in August, 2022, at a cost of $6.2 million. Bond revenues will be issued for that particular project in September, 2021. 

“This building is needed so desperately,” Gatewood said of the Student Services project. “Every day, students cannot find financial aid. They cannot find counseling. This will bring us into the 21st century. I cannot wait to get that underway. But it’s not time yet. We have a relatively small footprint on our campus. We have to stage (the various bond construction projects) in order to keep the teaching and learning process going, and not disturb that too much.”