LIMA — Dr. Wilfred Ellis of the Rhodes State College Board of Trustees likened the notion of Rhodes State building a health sciences center in downtown Lima to a small acorn that grows into a mighty oak.
“Today, that oak is now a fledgling tree,” he said at a press conference Thursday at Keese Hall.
The college has announced that the state of Ohio has awarded $5 million to help build this center on the southeast quadrant of Lima’s Town Square, one of the two largest awards given to any community college in the state. This will be used with a previous $5 million given by the state. Along with other funds, that brings the college up to 75 percent of the $20 million needed to construct the facility.
The envisioned facility will be 75,000 square feet, serving 1,200 students and health care workers. Plans include offering 3D virtual simulations, classes, clinical experience and distance education. For Rhodes president Dr. Debra McCurdy, making this center a reality would completely reshape the college’s health care program.
“It’s a total game changer,” she said. “We’ve always been one of the leaders in providing health practitioners in the immediate community, and this is a whole new dimension.”
Along with offering state-of-the-art health education, proponents of the facility point to the economic impact this will have, especially for Lima’s downtown.
“We’ll serve to help anchor downtown and work closely with the Civic Center,” McCurdy said. “It’s been a tremendous anchor for downtown, and we can certainly do our part and help with its growth.”
Lima Mayor David Berger, who also spoke at the press conference, pointed out that just the promise of this facility coming to downtown has already spurred growth, with Thursday’s announcement would accelerate it.
“Just by their announcement to be there, they have encouraged other investors to look at either properties they already own, to fix them up, or to come into downtown for new investments,” he said. “This announcement will add to that sense of opportunity in the downtown.”
Having so many students and faculty flocking downtown will have an impact on where people do business, according to Berger.
“It’s not a one-time event,” he said. “This is a permanent, long-term presence in the downtown, with 800 to 1,000 people a day.”
With this additional funding in place, McCurdy cautions people not to expect to see bulldozers in Town Square right away. There are many more steps to come.
“We’ll be looking at securing some more properties and then demolition,” she said. “There are a lot of steps that need to happen in terms of surveys and other things.”
Berger pledged that the city would continue to provide assistance for the college moving forward.
“We’ve been supporting their efforts relative to the environmental assessments that have been going on, working as a coordinator with the Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA,” he said. “We’re also considering some more financial contributions to this project, but that has not yet been finalized.”
While McCurdy would not commit to a firm timetable for construction, she believes this new funding will greatly speed up the process of making this facility a reality.
“We could be moving forward on this very quickly,” she said. “This puts it in another dimension on the timing.”