(Delmarvanow.com) -- A groundbreaking ceremony marked the beginning of construction for the Eastern Shore Community College's new academic and administration building on Friday, Oct. 13.
Officials and community members gathered to celebrate the future 49,000 square-foot building, which will replace the existing 1970s-era facility. The building is expected to open in January 2019.
"This is truly transformational for this community," said Glenn DuBois, Virginia Community College System chancellor.
DuBois said he thinks of the new building as more than just a physical site.
"I think of all the people who are going to come and learn and work and teach in that building — and what I see is not necessarily a building. Really, what I see is a launch pad to the American Dream," he said.
Community colleges have become, not just an access point to higher education, but an access point to that dream — "the viable way into the middle class," DuBois said.
Linda Thomas-Glover, Eastern Shore Community College president, welcomed a large crowd to the college under overcast skies.
She said the dream of building a new, updated facility for the college has long been in the works.
"On this day, our hope and longing over the past many years for a modern, technologically sound facility which will allow ESCC to fulfill its mission of empowering learners to enhance the quality of life for themselves and their communities starts to become a dream fulfilled," she said.
She thanked state elected officials, local government officials, ESCC board and foundation board members, and individuals and businesses who supported the years-long initiative to build a new facility.
Thomas-Glover recognized David Landsberger, Steve and Barbara Johnsen, Jeff and Penny Holland, Robert and Tori Bloxom, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for their help in reaching the goal of the capital campaign.
She also recognized George McMath, who helped obtain the funding for the original Eastern Shore Community College building, along with former college president Dick Jenkins and John Fiege, son of former college president John C. Fiege and an ESCC Foundation board member.
"This is something many of us have been dreaming about — it has been a vision for many years, now becoming a reality," said Jeff Holland, Eastern Shore Community College Board chairman.
"This building will continue to be a rising tide that is going to lift all the boats of the citizens of the Eastern Shore," he said.
Sen. Lynwood Lewis called the college "such an integral and important part of our community."
"It has been great over the last few years to watch this project sort of bump up the list of capital projects for the community college system — and that's due to the efforts of a lot of folks in here," Lewis said.
Lewis thanked Thomas-Glover for her leadership and her stewardship.
Del. Rob Bloxom said he was fortunate to be the one to sign off on the capital project, during his first days in office.
"I'm just so happy that we are able to come up with a new building that is going to take us into the next century with learning and being able to connect with the new industries that are emerging on the Shore," Bloxom said.
Eastern Shore Community College is a two-year community college serving the residents of Accomack and Northampton counties. The college became part of the Virginia Community College System in the 1970s.
The new academic building will emphasize sustainable design and flexibility in order to offer classes to meet changing workforce needs.
In collaboration with McKenzie Construction Corporation and RRMM Architects for the design, Timmons Group, a civil engineering firm, provided designs for the building site, a stormwater master plan, a replacement sanitary lift station, landscape architecture services, and environmental services.
It was decided a new building was needed after a feasibility study was completed in 2013 to determine whether to renovate the existing building or undertake new construction.
The study determined that due to the age of the existing building and cost of maintenance, such as for a leaky roof and outdated heating and cooling system, it was more economically effective long-term to demolish the old building and build a new one.
Virginia is providing about $17.5 million to construct the building, in addition to another $2 million for furnishings and equipment to be made available six months prior to the project's completion.
The source of the state funding is the Virginia College Building Authority.
Having a facility that is state-of-the-art in terms of technology and equipment "allows the college to better serve the residents and businesses of the Shore," Thomas-Glover said in an interview in September.
Having the new building will allow the college to expand program offerings and provide students with a learning and training environment "that more adequately reflects those seen at senior institutions and in the workplace," she said.
Thomas-Glover credited the architects for listening to faculty and staff's suggestions for the replacement building.
One feature of the new building of which Thomas-Glover is particularly fond is a Technical Programs Innovation Lab. It's designed so all utilities are sited around the outside walls, which will allow the college to provide training in technical programs using mobile training units that can be switched out as needed, "so we don't have to have a dedicated lab for each unit or module and can maximize the existing space," she said.