With the site purchase finalized in December, the United Way of St. Charles is seeking a contractor and the public’s help towards shaping its community college campus.
“Part of the goal of the United Way is we’re listening to our community,” said United Way Executive Director John Dias. “We want to be good neighbors.”
The campus will be named River Parishes Community College – United Way campus, Dias said. A new sign has been placed on Highway 90 in Luling and landscaping will be done.
The United Way is seeking members for two committees or focus groups – one on curriculum and the other on resources – to put the project into high gear. Dias said he wants the committees up and running within 30 days and then recommendations in hand within 45 days.
On curriculum, Dias said area leaders, employers and educators will be able to relay their needs for courses as committee members, as well as to avoid duplication in courses.
On the financial side, industry leaders will have the opportunity to support the project in return for dedicated rooms.
Also, Dias said they hope to restore the organization’s funds.
“We basically had to take about $400,000 out of our reserves to make the down payment and closing costs on the building,” he said. “My role as the leader of this organization is seeking a way to raise that money back, and it would be nice to restore funds for the next need that comes along.”
The United Way bought the 3.9-acre site at 13143 Highway 90, which includes parking for 300 vehicles.
Murray Associates Architects developed the bid package, including plans and drawings. Bids can be submitted by Jan. 30.
The campus is UW’s “Million Dollar Idea.” It resulted in a partnership with River Parishes Community College in Reserve, which agreed to manage the St. Charles Parish campus if the United Way found a building.
In December, the United Way of St. Charles closed its deal on a strip mall in Boutte including the Boutte Bingo Hall for $2 million, which Dias called the “biggest, boldest initiative” in its 64-year history. The college will be a part of the Louisiana Technical College System and open to all students.
The project will cost an estimated $3 million, including $1.4 million to renovate the 16,389 square-foot bingo hall and the addition of 439 square feet. The renovation will provide a facelift for the center section of the building.
Plans are to start construction in February and hold classes for the fall semester, Dias said. The campus is expected to draw an initial 250 students, a number that he expects to grow to 400 students within three years.
The hall’s neighboring retailers, including Advanced Auto Parts, Anita’s Smoking Steakburgers and Sidelines Barber Shop, will stay and continue paying rent that will subsidize the project, he said.
“This is a win-win,” he said. “By us buying a building with tenants in it, a large portion of the cost of this project is being paid by them.”
Dias also said the campus is already becoming a community service.
Dat Dads’ Club of Luling will use the parking lot for its next fundraiser cook-off in spring. The club usually holds the event at Bridge Park, but couldn’t do it there this year because of a schedule conflict.
Dias added, “It makes that facility a community resource, as well as a school.”