NEAAAT purchases portion of ex-mall for new campus
From staff reports
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies is moving forward with plans to make part of the former Southgate Mall property its new home.
NEAAAT officials signed paperwork on Friday to purchase a large portion of the former mall property to serve as a future campus for the Elizabeth City-based charter school.
The new campus will be a combination of new construction and renovation, with plans calling for using as much of the existing structure as possible in order to reduce costs.
“We’re extremely grateful to Clay Boardman and John Gibson of Vireo Group, as well as our partners at TowneBank and USDA Rural Development for making today’s transaction possible,” Joe Peel, chairman of the NEAAAT board said in a press release. “This journey has certainly been long and winding, but we’re very excited to finally take ownership of our future home.”
NEAAAT, which currently serves more than 590 students from eight northeastern counties, is currently housed on the campuses of Elizabeth City State University and College of The Albemarle. The school plans to relocate to a 63,000-square-foot facility at the Southgate site beginning with the 2020-21 school year.
NEAAAT Chief Executive Officer Andrew Harris said Monday that renovations at the Southgate site could begin as early as next week, and that some of the school’s office personnel could begin moving to the new campus next May.
“Though the current schedule estimates completion (of the school) in late spring, we’ll most likely begin the move over the summer,” Harris said.
He noted that the 2020-21 school year will mark the first time since the school opened that all NEAAAT faculty, staff, and students will be under one roof.
The new facility will feature specialized science, engineering, healthcare, and aviation labs funded through a $500,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation. The former mall space will be redesigned as flexible, collaborative spaces for students to work in teams. The new facility will feature all-new sewer infrastructure and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, according to Harris.
With an overall price tag of under $8 million, the renovated facility represents a savings to taxpayers over the cost of new construction. Still, NEAAAT is currently raising additional funds to support the project.
“Our board conducted a study of several facilities options, and we found the Southgate renovation to be roughly a third of the cost of new construction,” said Harris. “Since public charter schools do not receive funding for facilities, we’ll still need to raise funds for some of the cutting-edge furnishings and equipment we hope to have ready for students next fall.”
In addition to the former mall property it’s purchasing, NEAAAT has also signed a five-year lease of the greenspace immediately adjacent to it. The lease provides the school with a five-year option to purchase the land, which will initially be used for classes and extracurricular activities.
Harris said negotiations are also underway with ECSU and COA for NEAAAT to continue basing a small number of its personnel on those campuses.