By Brandon Martin
New College Institute’s (NCI) property, The Building of Baldwin, has been sold to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The building is a 52,000 square-foot structure that is situated at the intersection of Market and Fayette Streets. The educational facility opened in 2014 and has since provided alternative educational opportunities to the community.
State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, who also serves as the chairman of the Board of Directors at NCI, announced the state purchased the building on March 16 through the Department of General Services (DGS).
“Virginia’s purchase today of the NCI Building on the historic Baldwin Block, a goal of the NCI Board of Directors in its long-term strategy for the continued success of NCI, has now finally been achieved,” Stanley said. “This purchase agreement now solidifies the Commonwealth’s permanent commitment to economic diversification and educational attainment. Virginia created NCI in 2004 as a promise to the people of Southside Virginia to provide an innovative way of providing educational and workforce training as a part of its economic revitalization strategy — today Virginia just reaffirmed that promise.”
In order for the state to acquire the building, DGS had to ratify the original contract with the New College Foundation (NCF). The final transfer from NCF to the state is still pending and closing on the contract is expected later this year.
As the recipient of the grant funds, NCF initially accepted and retained ownership of the building until its recent transfer to the state.
Martinsville City Council member Danny Turner said that when the initial contract was made, he recalled the City Council putting a provision that if NCI ceased to be a school, the property would go back to the city.
“I don’t understand how they (NCF) could make the sale without a clear title,” he said adding that he still considered the purchase by the state to be “a good thing.”
“They now have to live up to their responsibility to do what’s in the best interest of the college,” Turner said. “The state has a lot more assets than the foundation does and hopefully that will all be used for the betterment of the school and the region.”
Interim Executive Director of NCI Karen Jackson said that “since NCF’s expressed purpose is to support NCI, it is my expectation that NCI will be the beneficiary of the funds through grants from, and agreements with, the foundation that will empower NCI to bring enhanced programs and educational opportunities to southern Virginia.”
One upgrade that Jackson would like to see at NCI is repurposing space within the building to create a computer lab that would have technical support onsite. Jackson said that this would help address a potential barrier for people that are interested in furthering their education but lack the resources to do so or who aren’t comfortable with technology enough to take classes from home.
Jackson sees NCI’s role in the community as that of a facilitator. Her goal for the institute is to find the jobs that are available, make the opportunities apparent to the community and to help students map out their path to achieving their goals of finding jobs in those areas.
Serving the region appears to be top of the priority list for DGS as well.
“We are pleased to work with the New College Institute and the New College Foundation to make this purchase a reality,” Director of DGS Joseph Damico said. “Our real estate team worked with both parties on their shared goal of ensuring this state-of-the-art facility remains available to serve the educational and workforce needs of southern Virginia.”
NCF will gain $7,469,005 for the sale of the building to the state, which the organization plans to use in their “enduring commitment to economic diversification and educational attainment.”
“We are excited to embark on this new chapter, and we are especially looking forward to expanding our programming to accelerate economic development and educational opportunities,” Jackson said.
“Our recently announced programs and partnerships will only be enhanced by the availability of additional funding and direct oversight of our physical assets.”
NCI was established to “diversify the region’s economy through collaborative partnerships with public and private sector entities and the community at large; facilitate the development of an industry relevant trained workforce; and, expand education opportunities; and serve as an ‘in region’ resource and referral center for existing educational programs, research, and technology resources,” according to the press release.
Jackson said that NCI’s mission won’t change with the sale to the state.
“My hope is that by expanding NCI’s control over the physical space we live in, we can use it more effectively,” she said. “We are establishing new relationships outside the region that have the potential to bring more groups from outside the region in and it will also allow us to make some additions/changes so that the physical presence of NCI will better align with our new programming.”
In addition to private donations, the building was originally constructed with grant funds from The Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, federal and state grants and funds from the Harvest Foundation.
“This exciting step symbolizes the Commonwealth’s continued commitment to the vital role that NCI is playing to advance educational and economic opportunities in Southern Virginia,” Vice Chairman of the NCI Board of Directors Richard Hall said. “I believe this acquisition allows NCI the flexibility and autonomy necessary to serve as a catalyst for non-traditional economic development opportunities that tie in well with the Harvest Foundation’s current vision, and are in direct alignment with the economics priorities of the Commonwealth.”