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State to fund half of $25 million NCCC project

SANBORN – The long-discussed Niagara County Community College Learning Commons project, essentially a library upgrade with an atrium connecting it to the nearest academic building, is nearing reality.

State Sen. Robert G. Ortt announced at a news conference Thursday at the college that the state will supply $12.5 million for the project on a dollar-for-dollar matching basis.

Niagara County is supposed to provide the other half of the funding, but the college’s NCCC Foundation is trying to raise as much of the local share as possible through a capital campaign of private grants, NCCC President James P. Klyczek said. Every dollar raised from private sources is a dollar that doesn’t have to come from the taxpayers, he said.

County legislators said they’ll consider the project but made no promises of funding.

“On the surface, the proposed Learning Commons appears to be a transformational development for the college, certainly one that warrants significant consideration from the Legislature,” said W. Keith McNall, R-Lockport, chairman of the Community Services Committee. “As a body, we will come together to discuss the project as well as benefits and challenges of moving forward, and make a decision based on the best interests of all county residents,” he said.

Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said the state money will be sent on a cost reimbursement basis rather than as a lump sum.

“To have money from different levels of government and private money invested shows the broad support the college has and the project has,” Ortt said.

Klyczek said bids for the architectural and engineering contracts are to be opened April 23. Construction is targeted to start next spring, with completion expected 18 to 24 months after that.

Klyczek said the Learning Commons project involves 100,000 square feet of renovated space with some new construction. The glass-roofed atrium will connect the Henrietta Lewis Library with the neighboring Humanities Building, where a dozen of the college’s most frequently used classrooms, bordering on the atrium, will be enlarged and modernized.

“We’re being as efficient as we can and reusing the property and the buildings that already exist,” Klyczek said. “We’re only adding space where it’s absolutely and critically needed. I think this is an example of good money management.”

The atrium will enclose what is now an outdoor courtyard between the library and the Humanities and Social Sciences buildings. Individual work stations and study spaces will be installed, along with conference rooms, a new cafe, and second-floor walkway and patio areas.

The atrium will have a main entrance from the parking area and will contain a new entrance for the library. The makeover will provide more study areas and a concentration of academic assistance resources in a single area, Klyczek said. Information technology will be improved throughout the building.

The Child Development Center, a day care and early childhood education facility, will be expanded, as will the Faculty Development Center, the Dolce Valvo Art Center, the campus TV studio and classroom and labs for various media fields.