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Master plan for NCCC called 'comprehensive list' of possibilities

Niagara County Community College's new "Campus Facility Master Plan" contains $52.5 million in proposed projects to improve and modernize the school and make it more attractive and functional for today's college students.

Robert J. Joy, president of JMZ Architects and Planners of Glens Falls, said his company came up with the plan after a year of study on campus. He presented his final report to the college board of trustees Wednesday. The board hired his company to draw up the facilities plan.

The master plan provides "a comprehensive list of possible projects" the board could take on over the next 10 years, Joy said.

He told the board that "no college completes every project on the list, at least not all at once," noting his firm has conducted similar studies for other colleges that, like NCCC, were built more than 30 years ago. The NCCC campus was built in 1973.

Of the plan's total estimated cost of $52.5 million, Joy said, "Construction costs make up $38.7 million, with contingencies, fees and soft costs" such as architectural work, furniture and bonding attorneys adding $13.8 million.

He said the plan does not require any action and it would be up to the board to decide which projects it wants to do and when it might want to do them.

"Think of the master plan as a road map. It tells you where you are today, where you want to go and suggests various routes to get there. When you start a trip, which route you take and how fast you drive will be up to you, your county sponsor and the State of New York. Adopting the master plan completes one important phase of the work but requires you to now focus your energies on its implementation," he said.

He said the plan shows how the board can move the college "from a good one to a great one, and how your facilities can once again match the quality of this outstanding institution."

Because the college was built 33 years ago, Joy said, it has aged and needs to be upgraded to meet today's needs. He pointed out that technology for most NCCC students in 1973 "was a slide rule. Now technology means smart classrooms and wireless internet access throughout the campus."

Even students have changed. For one, "They have gotten larger," Joy said. "As a result, classrooms that once seemed adequate are now cramped and inflexible. Improving the quality of teaching and learning spaces was identified as the most important goal of the master plan by both faculty and students," Joy said of his first findings.

The master plan suggests many changes. The most significant is to connect the library and humanities buildings with a roof, turning the outdoor courtyard that separates them into "a Wintergarden-like learning commons" that would be an extension of the library and "a comfortable year-round learning space for students to gather and work," Joy said.

It would provide students a front-door entrance and a first floor to the library -- the learning commons -- which currently starts on the second floor, making it easily accessible to students and faculty. Currently students have to enter a child care area before they can make it upstairs to the library.

The change would be a practical one, Joy said.

"We already have all the exterior walls [of the other buildings] enclosing the courtyard. All we have to do is put a roof over it to enclose the space that's there to make it a year-round facility. It would be a very efficient project in terms of both energy and cost," Joy said.

There also would be "high clerestory windows or skylights" installed with the roof "to maximize the amount of daylight." Horticulture students could fix it up to contain a lot of greenery.

"You could plant trees in there," Joy said.

"This is a long-range proposal," Joy said. He said he doubted any of the proposed projects, of which there are many, would be under construction for at least three to five years.


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