Richard Stockton College’s new instructional site in Hammonton opened for classes Wednesday with hopes of quickly expanding to offer full-degree programs.
This semester, the three-story Kramer Hall, a former factory, will serve 112 students in a dozen mostly general-studies classes.
But the school is working to meet the needs of hundreds of community college graduates from west of Hammonton who would finish their bachelor’s degrees at Stockton, Provost and Executive Vice President Harvey Kesselman said.
“We’re meeting with Atlantic, Burlington and Camden county colleges, to see which final two years of particular degree programs most students want to take,” Kesselman said. The college would try to offer those programs in full at Kramer Hall.
“All roads lead to Hammonton,” Kesselman said of the White Horse and Black Horse pikes, the Atlantic City Expressway and Route 206, as well as the NJ Transit train station. “It’s one of the advantages of being (here).”
The site, at 30 Front St. near the train station, is a former shoe and clothing factory. The town of Hammonton got a $250,000 grant toward paying the $295,000 price of the long vacant building to Wallace Realty. The remainder of the cost came from an insurance claim and earlier deposit.
On Monday, the town went to settlement with the college, and sold the renovated building to the school for $1, Hammonton Business Administrator Jerome Barberio said.
Hammonton oversaw the renovations, paid for by Stockton, and the final cost was about $5.2 million, said Susan Allen, a professional service specialist for Stockton’s Office of External Affairs. It was hoped the building would open last September, but problems with the initial contractor pushed back the opening to January.
The town has not talked to Stockton about making any payments in lieu of taxes for the tax-empt property, town solicitor Brian Howell said. But he said there may be commercial opportunities there in future, and for-profit entities would pay taxes.
The building’s five large classrooms, five smaller seminar rooms, computer lab and administrative offices were complete on Tuesday, as the first four students entered at 12:30 p.m. for an Arguments and Persuasion class with adjunct professor Anna Evans, of Hainesport, Burlington County.
Evans said she appreciates the shorter commute. It takes her 40 minutes to get to Hammonton from her home, compared with a full hour to the main Stockton campus in Galloway Township.
Edward Grimm, 20, of Hammonton, is a full-time Stockton criminal justice major who lives at home and commutes. He said he chose the class, in part, because it was offered in his hometown. But he will still have to drive to the main campus for a class later in the afternoon, he said.
It was the same for transfer students Taylor Jones, of Hammonton, a biology major and 2011 graduate of Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Newfield, Gloucester County, and Erika Maldonado, of Landisville, a junior.
Maldonado predicted that, as more people take classes in the building, they will appreciate the chance to eat at great restaurants downtown, such as her favorite, Fiesta Mexicana, or even hop on the train for a night in Philadelphia.
“I don’t see why not,” she said. “There’s a lot to do here.”
An art-exhibit space on the first floor, which the Noyes Museum at Stockton will use, was under construction Tuesday but should be finished in time for the official ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. Jan. 31, said Skip West, director of facilities and construction for Stockton.
The building used sustainable materials and finishes, and energy-efficient lighting, but Stockton did not attempt to get it LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, said Rummy Pandit, interim associate vice president for operations. That certification is the standard that shows a building was constructed with the most stringent methods for energy efficiency and sustainability. Pandit said about 75 percent of the existing floors, walls and roof materials were saved.
“We kept as much as we could,” Pandit said, including exposing huge old beams throughout. “It gives a grand old look to the building. And that makes it more sustainable as well.”
Officials also said continuing education classes and workshops will be offered at Kramer Hall, as well as special events for community groups. The college had been holding evening classes at St. Joseph High School in Hammonton.
In December, the building was named for Charles and Lynn Kramer, owners of Kramer Beverage in Hammonton, who pledged $250,000 toward the cost of the renovations. Charles Kramer has been a member of the Stockton College Foundation Board for more than 16 years.
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