PVCC land

ALLISON WRABEL/THE DAILY PROGRESS

Piedmont Virginia Community College President Frank Friedman shows college board members land the school had planned to sell near Interstate 64. Those plans are now on hold as the state community college system mulls allowing community colleges to have residence halls.

Piedmont Virginia Community College officials were expecting to ask a state board for permission this month to sell 17 acres the college owns off Avon Street Extended.

But in November, the Virginia Community College System State Board voted to study whether some form of student housing could be an option for some of its community colleges.

PVCC President Frank Friedman told board members Wednesday that plans to sell that land, which has been discussed for more than year, are on hold until the state board finishes its study. He expects the work to wrap up in a few months.

“In all of this discussion over the last few years about that land, that was never a possibility,” Friedman said at a college board meeting.

Currently, community colleges are prohibited from having residence halls, Friedman said.

The college board voted Nov. 6 to request permission from the state board to sell the site off Avon Street Extended and next to Interstate 64. The state community college system owns the land colleges sit upon.

College officials had pursued leasing the land to generate revenue, but that option didn’t interest developers.

Friedman said he only has anecdotal information from students about whether on-campus housing would be of interest.

“There are several of the community colleges that are just chomping at the bit to have residence halls,” he said. “There are others that have no interest. We’re somewhere in the middle.”

If the state board allows community colleges to have dorms or apartments on their campuses, then PVCC would gauge student interest.

“We’re trying to figure out what would be the best use of the land,” he said.

The state board could decide to allow for public-private partnerships using college property. That would be a positive outcome from PVCC, Friedman said.

“I don’t know if that’s where the state board will end up, and I don’t even know what we would do at that point,” he said. “But it would open up more possibilities for us.”

The Virginia Mercury reported the state board’s decision at the end of November.

Friedman said after the news was publicized, developers started calling his office.

PVCC estimates the land, zoned R1 residential, could sell for between $5 million and $10 million. It had planned to use the money for its Advanced Technical Training Center.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s budget proposal includes full construction funding for the ATC as well as $4.5 million for solar panels to fully power the new building, Friedman said.

Friedman said faculty, staff and board members were relentless in pushing for the new building to use more renewable energy.

Northam also proposed $72.5 million a year for a version of free community college that would be available to low- to middle-income students who take classes in certain programs.

“This is, I believe, the largest program totally dedicated to community colleges in the 20 years I’ve been here,” Friedman said. “This is quite a commitment on the part of the governor.”

Friedman is expecting the particulars to change as the proposal moves through the General Assembly. As it stands now, he said the program could remove barriers and open up opportunities.

“It has the potential to be an enormous generator of opportunity for individuals who have looked at coming here or other community colleges and said to themselves, I’d like to do that but I can’t afford the tuition,” he said.

The General Assembly, which convened for its new session Wednesday, still must approve the budget.

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