Universities expect 700 students will enroll in city

ThisWeek Community News – September 2, 2009

Six universities projected more than 700 students will enroll in educational programs in Grove City by 2011.

The universities are working with city officials to develop the Grove City University Partnership. City and university officials expect to fill about 20,000 square feet of classroom space in a proposed 66,000-square-foot building planned as part of the lumberyard redevelopment project.

The universities in the partnership are Ashland University, Capital University, Columbus State Community College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Ohio State University and the University of Toledo.

None of the universities has signed a binding contract, but their commitment has become one reason for the construction of a 282-space parking garage in the lumberyard, city officials have said.

“The interest in Grove City is because of the population base there,” said Stephen Stuart, representing Ashland University. “There is a real need for increased educational participation in higher education, not only in Grove City, but Ohio as a whole.”

According to a survey conducted by Saperstein Associates, Columbus, and paid for by the city, 60 percent of the 505 city residents surveyed were “very positive” about having a higher-education facility established in the Town Center, 31 percent had a “somewhat positive” impression and 7 percent were negative. Two percent have no opinion.

“It’s a logical move,” said Mike Snider, representing Columbus State. “This partnership is a unique and exciting venture for us.”

He said Columbus State has rented space at the South-Western Career Academy at 4750 Big Run South Road for a “number of years.” It also has provided aircraft mechanic classes at Bolton Field at 2000 Norton Road in the South-Western City School District.

“Columbus State is this community’s college,” Snider said. “It just makes sense that we would be there.”

He added it is “unusual” that Grove City does not offer more opportunities for higher education.

Representatives from the six universities and city officials met Aug. 19 to review plans for the 20,000 square feet of space being set aside for the university partnership. They will meet again Sept. 16.

According to the plan, the space will be filled with 13 classrooms, administrative offices and an open office for professors of the universities.

The average classroom will be about 950 square feet, said Don Walters, the city’s community and business relations officer.

He said the building housing the classroom space could be complete by the winter of 2011. It is part of the projected $30-million lumberyard project supervised by Gahanna-based developer Stonehenge.

He said Franklin University was involved in the discussions, but left after deciding to focus on an expansion project in Indianapolis.

Walters said preliminary discussions involve the city as the legal entity to hire — for an unspecified period — about three people to act as administrators, academic counselors and building supervisors.

“It is our thought that the city is going to take on a bigger role,” he said.

University tuition fees will cover the cost to rent classroom space and hire employees, Walters said.

He said the universities might own the partnership.

“We (the city) are just going to be the catalyst for that Grove City University Partnership to operate,” he added.

Walters said university representatives, Stonehenge developers and city officials have been meeting since April to plan classroom, office and lab space for the partnership.

He calls the group of university and city officials the Educational Design Team Task Force.

“That’s the beauty of the task force is to bubble those needs up and come up with a solution,” Walters said.

He said task force members intend to have “smart” computerized boards in every classroom.

“They want it as high-tech as they’re operating with at their universities,” Walters said.