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Going Global

FM project would add housing, retail

December 20, 2013
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN-Fulton-Montgomery Community College is looking to build a Global Village that could be ready for business in September 2016, President Dustin Swanger announced at a press conference Thursday.

"Swanger Town" - as architect Bob Joy from JMZ Architects and Planners, P.C. referred to it - will be placed on part of the 145 acres adjacent to the college near the corner of Route 67 and Bendicks Corner Road, which is in the town of Amsterdam.

The Global Village - which will cost about $12 million to develop - will address the increased need for more campus housing, spur economic development and meet the social and cultural needs of the community, Swanger said.

"We are at a place where we need to start having some public discussions and needed to unveil the project before we could have those discussions," Swanger told the crowd of about 100 people in the College Union.

He said the area needs more places for the younger and contemporary generation. Swanger said nothing spoke to him more than his visit to the opening of Moe's in Amsterdam when he was waiting in line behind a younger crowd and one of them said "finally, there's a place for us."

He said that statement stuck with him and spurred his vision for the cultural and economic development he is envisioning for the college and community at large.

"That's a powerful message," Swanger said. "They didn't feel like they were welcome or at home elsewhere in our community."

Joy said the development is cutting edge and different.

"There isn't another community college in the country that's looking at something as creative as this," Joy said.

Swanger said the approximately 16,700 square feet of retail and restaurant space in the Global?Village will be aimed at the college and contemporary crowd with a cafe, boutique-style shops and possibly art gallery.

Swanger said the restaurant portion could have several different entities at the front of its location, but they could share the kitchen and preparation area in the back - similar to what can be seen at Thruway rest stops.

Swanger said the retail and restaurant portion of the village will be rented out to various businesses that aren't already in the local community.

Officials also said there are plans for a pavilion, pond for ice skating during the winter and an off-leash dog park.

He said the project would create construction jobs as well as retail jobs, but no exact numbers could be provided.

According to college officials, the Global Village will be constructed and controlled by the Foundation of FMCC and the Fulmont College Association.

Swanger said the college will seek a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the municipalities because the retail development will generate revenue.

The FM Foundation previously acquired about 145 acres across Bendicks Corner Road from the college. The land is split by four different municipalities, although this development is only connected to the town of Amsterdam.

Swanger said neither Fulton nor Montgomery counties will have to provide any money for the project.

He said the college is exploring its options in terms of funding, but officials are confident investors are interested in this type of development.

Officials said FM has looked at the development around large colleges across the state and used ideas they saw to help develop the plans for the FM project.

Housing ideas

The 294 beds at the Campus View complex already are filled during most semesters. Often, college officials said, 100 students are on a waiting list. An agreement with Microtel in Johnstown provided an additional 50 beds on the third floor of the hotel, serving as an international hall for the school year, officials said.

Swanger said in the eight years he has been at the FM campus it has grown by about 35 percent; while other community colleges are seeing a decline in enrollment this year, FM has seen an increase of 4 percent.

The space added for housing is expected to be about 45,295 square feet, adding about 124 beds.

While about 100 beds will go to the student population, the remaining beds will be available for the general public.

Swanger said the Microtel agreement was only a solution for this academic year and the college is continuing to explore its options while this development would be constructed.

Swanger said funding will be one of the primary objectives going forward, but there are several other things that still need to happen.

He said the college is interested in buying water from the Glove Cities.

However, Swanger said, if that falls through the college would be able to use the existing wells on campus. He said the wells haven't been used in a number of years but they could be fully functional if needed.

Following the presentation, the FMCC Board of Trustees unanimously approved the concept for the new development.

Swanger said the college will seek similar concept approval from the town of Amsterdam Planning Board in the coming months to show the community support to possible investors.

"This is a project being done by the two counties and for the two counties," town of Amsterdam Supervisor Thomas DiMezza said. "If you don't build it they're not going to come, but if you do build it everybody is going to come."

The plan is to build an entrance to the Global Village off Bendick Corners Road to avoid traffic on Route 67.

The second phase of the project would include a new fieldhouse on the current college campus. The third phase would feature a housing complex for senior citizens and would be located closer to Sacandaga Road. There are no estimated costs yet for those projects.



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