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Board approves Altamonte Springs expansion

Seminole State's Altamonte Springs Campus serves more than 3,700 students.

Seminole State College is tripling the size of its newest campus with the acquisition of 25.4 acres in Altamonte Springs.

The campus is home to all of the college's nursing and health-care programs, as well as general and adult education courses.

On Friday, March 19, Seminole State's District Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to purchase four parcels of land with existing structures and improvements from RCJ of Winter Park No. 2 — an entity related to Holler-Classic Automotive Group — for $22.5 million.

The acquisition, which will extend the Altamonte Springs Campus to Maitland Boulevard, includes property occupied by the Classic Chevrolet, Classic Hummer and Classic Audi car dealerships. It also includes an undeveloped portion of land adjacent to the current campus.

The purchase will add three existing buildings totaling 94,000 square feet and approximately 1,300 parking spaces to the campus.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime agreement that positions Seminole State to serve thousands of additional students for decades to come," said Dr. E. Ann McGee, president of the College. "In the immediate future, this will mean more parking, something students will appreciate. In just three years, we're looking at increasing our total size from 13 to 40 acres and adding nearly 100,000 square feet of space that can be used for classrooms and offices."

Under the agreement, the College will take control of the adjoining land parcel on July 31 and gain access to the remaining properties over the next two years. Seminole State can begin renovating one existing building in July 2011 and will gain full occupancy of all buildings and land parcels on Jan. 1, 2013.

RCJ will pay all related property taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance and upkeep costs for the buildings through Dec. 31, 2012.

"The Altamonte Springs Campus is operating at full capacity, and this is a big opportunity as we look toward expanding our site in one of the most densely populated areas of Seminole County," said Joseph Sarnovsky, Seminole State's vice president of administrative services.

To finance the purchase, Seminole State is asking the Legislature for $10 million in Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds for the 2010-11 fiscal year and $7.5 million for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years. If state funding does not come through for 2010-11, the College will cover its first payment with a five-year, low-interest loan. The loan, Sarnovsky said, will be paid off using capital improvement and parking fees.

Since its opening in January 2008, enrollment at the four-story, 100,000-square-foot Altamonte Springs facility has jumped from 2,800 students to more than 3,700 students.

To meet the demand, the College was considering a $70 million plan to construct a parking garage and additional building. Purchasing RCJ's land and existing structures will save more than $45 million, Sarnovsky said.

"The dealership buildings are less than 20 years old and could be easily converted into office or classroom space," he added.

Lynn Colon, dean of the Altamonte Springs Campus, said the College plans to conduct a needs assessment to determine the best way to use the new facilities.

"This is a wonderful step forward for the College and the community we serve," Colon said. "We're looking forward to being able to better meet our students' needs and are excited about the possibility of expanding our course offerings and health care programs at the campus."

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