The groundwork is about to begin to relocate the River Parishes Community College to Gonzales.
The newly signed, $2 million purchase agreement allocates 43 acres of a planned Edenborne community development to the River Parishes Community College. RPCC is now in Sorrento.
The development, more than 300 acres, is near Interstate 10 and La. 44 in Gonzales.
“We’re pleased that it’s moving again,” RPCC Chancellor Joe Ben Welch said of the “cumbersome and lengthy” land acquisition process.
“We’re all very excited about it,” Welch said. “This community has been very supportive.”
The purchase agreement requires the Edenborne Development Co. and the associated Michigan-based Quadrants Inc. developers to put in place the necessary road, culvert and infrastructure improvements within 12 months.
Roughly $20 million in construction funds — at least for the first phase — already is set aside from a previously approved state bond project. That sets an estimated April 2014 completion of construction, according to RPCC.
City and parish officials said they are hopeful the community college will spur the growth of homes and retail within the development, which has been delayed by some financial and legal issues.
“Maybe when the college comes in, it will be, sort of, ‘if they build it, they will come,’ ” Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez said.
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux said he believes the legal issues and land disputes are largely in the past. “This is going to be the beginning — the starting point,” Arceneaux said.
Quadrants Inc. also has handled The Settlement at Willow Grove project in Baton Rouge, the Victory Commons Condominiums near LSU and some Southern University System projects.
Edenborne Development Co. and Quadrants Inc. officials did not respond to messages left at their offices and with their lawyer Thursday.
The 12-year-old RPCC has about a 35,000-square-foot leased building.
Welch, who has led RPCC throughout its history, said the phase-one construction will be a 75,000 to 85,000 square-foot project. RPCC is expecting about 3,000 students this fall, he said, and the hope is to grow to almost 6,000 students in the next few years.
“We’re still adding temporary buildings,” Welch said. “We’re adding two more this fall.
“We’re at the verge of having to turn away students, if we haven’t already inadvertently done so already. Parking is a real problem.”
The plan is to eventually relocate RPCC’s main campus and its merged Technical Education Center campuses to the new location for academic and technical training once construction is complete, he said.
The initial construction will focus on classroom and training space, Welch said, with plans to ultimately build a full student center, auditorium and more.
Louisiana Community and Technical College System President Joe May said RPCC will be modeled after the new Louisiana Delta Community College campus in Monroe that opened last year and immediately saw its enrollment surge. Delta had been located at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
May said he expects RPCC to fit nicely in the middle of Edenborne with easy interstate access to attract students from parishes throughout — and even beyond — the I-10 corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
“When you look at where the population is growing,” May said, “that really makes it accessible from a lot of areas.”
May said he does not expect RPCC to compete directly with Baton Rouge Community College because both schools are growing and there are thousands of students still to be captured who are not attending any college.
Before RPCC opened, there were desegregation concerns that more white Baton Rouge students may enroll at RPCC to avoid the more racially diverse BRCC.
May said he does not see that as a concern at all.