Richard Stockton College’s investment in a rundown former garment factory in downtown Hammonton has grown from an estimated $3 million to almost $5 million, but the site is expected to open for the spring semester in January, college and city officials said.
Some of the funds will come from other sources, including $250,000 pledged by a still-unnamed private donor.
Hammonton Mayor Stephen DiDonato cited having to switch contractors mid-stream, plus changes and additions to the plans for the building, as leading to the higher cost and a delay in the originally planned September opening.
“But we do expect it to be done and ready for January,” DiDonato said.
The 15,000-square-foot building is considered a cornerstone in the redevelopment of Hammonton’s downtown. It sits across from the railroad station, providing easy access for students without cars, and is walking distance to downtown shops.
Under an agreement with the college signed in December 2010, Hammonton bought the site for $295,000, using a $250,000 federal grant, plus an insurance claim and an earlier deposit.
The city is managing the renovations, with input from Stockton, with the understanding the building will be turned over to Stockton once it is completed. Stockton is paying for the renovations from its investment fund. The financing agreement meant Hammonton would not have to bond for the renovation funds, and Stockton would save about $1.7 million in lease payments.
Hammonton initially awarded a $3.2 million contract to Martell Construction in Penns Grove, which was unable to complete the project, according to college and city officials. In July 2012, the city approved MJJ Construction of Atco to complete the work at a cost of $2.5 million. Hammonton City Council has approved almost $900,000 in change orders since July, according to city documents. The college expects to recoup $239,000 in surety bond funds from the difference between the two contracts.
The most expensive change order was $347,000 in site work for the new contract. Other change orders included $21,000 to level the toilet room floors, $69,600 for security-card readers, almost $64,000 to repair stucco, $74,000 to change wiring and $21,000 to fix exterior electrical feeders.
Stockton officials said the initial $3 million estimate was just for construction and did not include architecture and engineering fees, or furniture, fixtures and equipment, which will cost about $770,000. Additional infrastructure and structural repairs cost $330,000, an environmental cleanup was about $350,000, and the addition of a parking lot added about $350,000.
Overall, college officials projected the cost at $5.2 million, though it is expected to come in less.
Rummy Pandit, interim associate vice president for operations and executive director of Stockton Seaview Resort, said the parking lot was not in the original plans but was added because response to course offerings planned for the site indicated the need for more parking right away.
“It was initially an add-on, but as enrollment looked better, we realized we needed the lot now,” he said.
The plan calls for a lot to hold 30 cars. Parking is also allowed on both sides of Front Street and nearby side streets.
The college plans to offer 12 courses in different disciplines at the site in the spring semester, rotating among five classrooms and five seminar rooms. Registration has begun, and 88 students have registered so far.
Provost Harvey Kesselman said they anticipate having 150 students registered by January, but they all would not be on the campus at the same time. Most courses are scheduled for the evening, either once a week on Mondays, or twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and there is one class on Saturday morning.
Courses include Art Appreciation, Introduction to Audiology, Leadership in Instructional Technology and Beginning Spanish.
The college has offered evening classes at St. Joseph High School in Hammonton. This semester, 124 students are enrolled in seven classes.
The Hammonton site also will offer continuing education training programs, small-business development workshops, “miniversity” programs for high school students, standardized testing and space for nonprofit organizations to hold events.
The renovated building now has display windows across the front entrance and plans to put commercial establishments such as a coffee shop or bookstore on the ground floor. Pandit said they first want to get the building up an running for students.
“We are delighted to be in Hammonton, and we look forward to being part of the revitalization there,” Pandit said.
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