Northeast State on brink of largest capital project in Tenn. community college history

Rick Wagner • Jun 27, 2013 at 3:50 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Northeast State Community College is about to embark on a historic $35 million construction project.

That is the largest capital project in its history, as well as the history of community colleges in Tennessee to date.

Northeast faculty and members of the Northeast Foundation heard an initial design phase presentation Wednesday afternoon from a Tennessee Board of Regents official, college President Janice Gilliam and the architect who provided a rendering of what the new Emerging Technologies Complex might look like.

The project was approved in concept by the TBR in 2008 but only included in the capital budget in the 2013-14 state budget.

“This is going to be a global model for how to teach technical education,” Gilliam said. Six potential new programs and at least 15 existing ones eventually are to be housed in the building.

After the new construction, two of the oldest buildings on campus will be torn down.

Gilliam, Carl Manka, senior director of planning and research in the TBR Office of Facilities Development, and John Fischer of Greeneville-based Fischer & Associates Architects Inc., said the project is likely three years away from completion: about eight months of detailed design work after the TBR Building Commission formally approves the project in mid-July, another two or three months to get bids on the project and award one, and about two years of construction.

Fischer & Associates

and Johnson City-based Ken Ross Architects Inc. are principals for

the project. According to information from

Ken Ross Architects and confirmed by Northeast States, Fisher and

Associates and KRA are designers of the project and the complex is a

joint project, with John Fischer and Ken Ross listed as the


“We’re looking at three years, around that, for completion of the project,” Gilliam told the group in the school’s auditorium.

Fisher said the real genesis of the project was a 1989 master plan that called for the relocation of Holston Drive to open up more space for the college, which used to landlocked between Holston and Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

Much of the progress and expansion on campus dates back to that, he said.

Of the $35 million, Tennessee will provide $32.5 million and Northeast the other $3.5 million through fundraising and grants.

Gilliam said the Northeast Foundation is actively involved in seeking financial support from the community and private sector, and the college is seeking 15 grants for the project.

She said the school also is seeking input on the new project from faculty and donors and that an announcement about the 10 percent match likely would occur late this year.

Other campus improvements that would be completely dependent on fundraising include a corner tower “economic development suite” in the building, where economic developers could meet with national or international prospects; a separate convention hall arena, a 15,000-square-foot area where graduation and convocation could be held; and a separate student center.

Gilliam said a motor sports institute is one possibility to be housed at the complex.

Six proposed new programs that could be located there are building construction, energy specialist, health informatics or digital health records, entertainment technology, which is to be offered at Northeast State’s new downtown Bristol, Tenn., facility, horticulture and cybersecurity.

More than 15 other existing programs that may be located there include programs in office systems administration, business technology and computer science.

The project is nearly double the $20 million Walters State Community College expansion of Greeneville/Greene County, for which Fisher also is the architect. That project received $9 million in state funding, with the rest to be from non-state funds.

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