Cayuga Community College is one step closer to realizing its vision of an expanded campus for its growing Fulton branch. On Tuesday, the Cayuga County Legislature approved the signing of the purchase agreement for the former P&C Foods building in the River Glen Plaza in Fulton, and approved the establishment of a capital fund for the project.
The College will pay $950,000 to buy the property from its current owner JHMPAC Inc. The state approved the project and has committed to funding half of the $11.3 million needed to renovate the property. Cayuga County will bond for the other half of the project.
The College intends to move its Fulton campus from its current 50,000-square-foot space in the Fulton Commons on West Broadway Street/Route 3 into the former P&C Foods building by Fall 2012. The new space offers a larger space and 20,000 square feet in a partial second floor to be added as part of the remodeling project.
"We looked at several sites in Fulton, but ultimately, we believe this space gives us the greatest flexibility and room to grow," said Daniel Larson, president of Cayuga Community College. "The location is ideal for a college – set back off the road, with plenty of parking and its own entrance from two major roadways. We're excited to begin renovations on the new space and transform this vacant building into a vibrant college campus."
The River Glen property sits on a small hill at the intersection of the major, divided highway Interstate 481 and Route 57 at the southeast end of Fulton. The entrance to the property is highly visible, and controlled by a traffic light. The plaza has 898 parking spots.
Future purchases could enable the College to grow into other vacant store fronts in the River Glen Plaza. The College is exploring the feasibility of purchasing 40 acres of land adjacent to the 20-acre P&C site.
The College expects to move all of its credit-bearing degree and certificate programs into the River Glen building, and will offer credit-free community education and workforce development courses and other activities in the Fulton Commons space for at least the next five years. The Fulton Commons space will enable the College to expand its workforce development programming for the 28 largest employers in Oswego County as well as other smaller companies.
The announcement comes as welcome news to the 130 faculty and staff members who work at the Fulton campus and have developed creative ways to deal with the shortage of space for a growing campus community.
The College has experienced a dramatic increase in enrollment at the Fulton campus. In 1994, Cayuga first began offering courses to 92 students in two rooms in Fulton. By 2006, when the Fulton Extension Center became an official Branch Campus that offers complete degree programs, enrollment had jumped to 1,106 students. Today, campus enrollment in Fulton is more than 1,260.
"This design of the current Fulton campus creates a unique engagement between faculty, students and staff," said Maggie Killoran, associate vice president and dean of the Fulton campus. "Students are studying, working, participating in events, or just chatting in all corners of the building. While this creates a very dynamic, collegial, and active environment, it can sometimes be difficult to find a quiet space. We are at full capacity at this location – in terms of learning space, computer labs, and dedicated student areas."
"This new facility will give students the room they need to have their own space for learning activities, club meetings, athletics, performances, and for just being students," she said. "So we are all thrilled to know that this purchase will allow us to better meet the learning and social needs of our students."
As the College is able physically to accommodate the growing number of students, it expects to hire more faculty and staff to teach and support them.
"Data from the New York State Education Department show us that we educate about 25 percent of the high school students in Cayuga County, where we're only doing the same for about 10 percent in Oswego County," Larson said. "But, we know from census data that 58 percent of Oswego County residents 25 years and older have earned a high school diploma only. Helping these non-traditional students earn a college degree will be another goal for us in Oswego County."
U.S. Census data indicate that the Oswego County population (121,395) is approximately 52 percent larger than Cayuga County (79,823), so the potential for growth at the Fulton campus is great.