The plan to expand Cayuga Community College’s Fulton campus came down to three sites. In the end, college officials set aside their frustration and dealt with the people who derailed their plans a year ago.
College President Dr. Daniel Larson said that the former P&C supermarket in River Glen Plaza “came out as our top choice”.
It was an unlikely outcome. A year before, the college thought it had a deal to buy the store. The $11.5 million project would have added a 20,000 square foot second floor to the 50,000 square foot store to house a school that has outgrown its home across town in a renovated former department store.
But the deal fell apart when a partnership swooped in and bought the store for $700,000. College officials were openly angry. They felt that their current landlord was tied to the partnership that bought the P&C site, and said that they believed their landlord would take actions to try to keep them renting from him.
The college then made a public show of asking for proposals for a place for the school.
Larson said the college got a dozen proposals. Three finalists were chosen. Larson said the former Nestle chocolate plant was one finalist, as was a site along Route 481 which he described as being halfway between Nestle and River Glen Plaza. (The former Container Corporation box plant site is in that area.)
The third was P&C.
“We had some renewed contact with the new owner of the P&C building and engaged that discussion carefully because there was history there, but both parties agreed that rather than talk about hsitory we would be better served to talk about the future,” Larson said.
In the end, the P&C building was the only choice that worked for them. It is highly visible along Route 481, the major corridor through Fulton. It has plenty of parking. And it has room for expansion, both from buying the other storefronts in the strip center and a 40-acre tract of land just south of the shopping center that the college identified in its original proposal.
CCC will pay $950,000 for the store, $250,000 more than the partnership paid for it a year ago.
Larson said that the state financing already approved for the project will be enough, even though a year has passed. He acknowledges that the delay may cause them to take some small pieces out of the project, something that’s fairly common on all large public construction projects.
He said the new campus should be ready by fall, 2012.
As for the current campus, CCC’s landlord may get his wish after all. The college intends to begin offering non-credit courses there once the college moves to the new site, Larson said.
“We believe the Fulton campus offers us a tremendous opportunity for non-credit courses,” Larson said. He said some of the courses are community-type offerings such as Zumba dance and computer software tutorials. He said one successful non-credit course offered in Auburn has been a pharmacy technology course which he said has placed all of its graduates in good-paying jobs.
The expansion is just the latest sign of explosive growth at the college branch. It began with two rented rooms and 94 students in 1994. From 1994 to 2001, the college used the closed Holy Family School building. CCC moved to its current home at the former Pyramid Mall in 2001, with 687 students.
Larson said that early planning documents predicted that the Fulton center would have 900 students by 2010. The real number turned out to be about 1,400.
“We believe that the Fulton campus has the potential to grow to 2,500 or 3,000 students over the next few years,” Larson said. We anticipate that the campus could double in size. Part of our thinking is how do we plan for that kind of future growth? How do we address the kind of growth that could be coming to us in the next 5 to 7 years?”