LIMA — A Rhodes State College three-year capital improvement plan includes demolishing some central downtown buildings to build a new Center for Health Science Education & Innovation.
Rhodes State College President Dr. Debra McCurdy shared plans Monday with The Lima News to “optimally” construct a 75,000-square-foot facility to house the college’s allied health and nursing programs. The plans for a Center of Health Sciences was included in a 2007 capital plan submitted to the state.
“Initially we looked at this to be a part of the growth on campus,” McCurdy said, “but as we began to talk more and more about having such a center it made more sense — given where we are situated and that Lima is a bit unusual being a city of this size having two large hospitals about a mile apart — for us to look at delivering on the workforce investment side and to put this type of center in the downtown area, smack in between both hospitals.
“The primary focus was to relate to the hospitals but it also puts us in close proximity to Lima Senior High School as well as Lima Central Catholic,” she added. “It puts us in a good location when we talk about dual enrollment, early college initiatives. It puts us in a prime location to serve the high school populations as well as the health centers.”
Former Rhodes State College board of trustees member Keith Cunningham, who requested to remain part of the process to lend his expertise in dealing with Lima city and Allen County government officials, said this is an opportunity that city, county, private industry and college leaders must seize because it comes once in a lifetime.
“This is an incredible opportunity, I think, for Rhodes State College to step out of the shadow of Ohio State. The move downtown suddenly establishes Rhodes very much in its own light,” Cunningham said. “The ancillary benefits of this to the community are innumerable from spin-off businesses and retail to second and third floor housing opportunities where we have had vacant buildings for decades.”
Business Vice President and Treasurer Chris Schmidt said plans call for demolishing buildings “to create a beautiful asset and it will take a few years before we have a grand opening.” He offered a three-year timeline for finished construction with property procurement estimated to take the next 12 to 18 months with another year for planning. He estimated construction would be completed in 2017.
Procurement of property for the project is being handled by the Rhodes State College Foundation, with former Rhodes State College board of trustees member Jane Krites listed as the agent. The foundation recently purchased several properties from Tri-C Enterprises, with Esther Cary as the managing member, for $60,000.
McCurdy called the sale of the property a “pivotal step” and the Cary’s sale price a “generous contribution.”
Potential funding sources for the downtown center include state appropriations and Rhodes State College funds as well as the city of Lima, Allen County and the private sector. “We will be having discussions with a range of entities in this community with regard to the magnitude of this project,” McCurdy said.
She said city, county and local hospital officials support the development and construction of the center.
Plans for a downtown health services center for education is a response to economic factors, educational opportunities and area demographics, and McCurdy called Allen County “a health hub.” In 2010-11, 183 people were enrolled in the allied health program and 169 people the nursing program at Rhodes State College and the numbers are growing.
Rhodes State College documents show the two hospitals employ 4,622 people and contribute $207 million to the economy, while the Lima area health sector employs 9,981 people and contributes $466.8 million to the local economy. This accounts for 15.3 percent of the county’s overall employment and 19.2 percent of the payroll in the county.
Expanding the area to 10-county region, health care is a $1.05 billion industry, according to documents prepared for the college by Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.
McCurdy’s presentation included benefits to creating a center in downtown Lima such as driving economic development revitalization, promoting higher education and enhancing the health science pathway.
The center would increase workforce development and job growth, infuse Lima with professionals and students and anchor future economic growth and entrepreneurial growth.
Providing examples of other urban centers by colleges and universities such as Grand Valley State in Michigan, Harrison College in Indianapolis and Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., McCurdy said building an urban center in Lima “means you become a greater part of the community.”