ROCKINGHAM — County leaders who worked together to bring a Richmond Community College to downtown Rockingham took the first swings Monday at demolishing the past to make way for the future.
RCC President Dale McInnis recounted the story of how the project came about when, after seeing the effects a similar project had on Hartsville, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Morris and Mayor Pro Tem John Hutchinson visited him in June 2015 with the idea to build a campus downtown.
“Because of their vision and the drive, determination and faith of these leaders and many of the folks sitting here in this audience today, we’ll soon see one landmark replaced with another landmark,” McInnis said at the groundbreaking ceremony in front of the soon-to-be-demolished R.W. Goodman building.
The campus will put Richmond County “in a whole different orbit,” he said.
Earlier this month, the city awarded the construction contract for the project to the John M. Campbell Co., which submitted a $11,364,975 bid. BB&T has committed itself to financing the project’s initial $13.1 million budget.
Demolition of the R.W. Goodman building at West Franklin and South Lee streets is set to begin in the coming weeks. The campus will be built where the store now stands, occupying 44,000 square feet.
The new structure will be named the Kenneth and Claudia Robinette Building and will house the Leon Levine School of Business and Information Technology. Levine, a Rockingham native and founder of Family Dollar stores, also brought Discovery Place Kids to Rockingham.
Classes are expected to begin downtown in fall 2019.
Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, who was instrumental in passing special legislation that allowed the bond money assigned to RCC to be spent on this project and whose father owned the building for decades, said he spent most of his life on that corner.
“That’s the reason this day means so much to me: to see this corner alive again and vibrant, opening doors of opportunity for young lives,” Goodman said. “To know that on the same location where I learned about business and grew as a businessman, future entrepreneurs and future leaders will develop the skills they need to guide Richmond County in years to come.”
Chair of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners Ken Robinette called RCC “a nucleus for economic development” for the county.
“This doesn’t happen everywhere, especially in rural counties, so we’re very blessed to be able to do what we’ve been able to do here today,” Robinette said, continuing to thank the parties involved for making the project a reality. “Today you’re starting to see the fruits of our labor.”
Morris restated his words from when he took office in January 2013, when he said city government would be “dreamers” who “paint with a big brush” and wouldn’t shy away from adversity.
“Today we’re looking at a 40,000-square-foot brush stroke,” Morris said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]