RIVERVIEW — The white boards aren't marred by marks that can't be erased. The bulletin boards don't have holes where the cork has been poked too many times. The computer keyboards don't crackle with the crunch of crumbs between buttons.
This place is new. This place, its manager says, is ready to be anything its students want it to be.
Since opening in January, HCC at the Regent has been exploring its identity as a satellite campus of Hillsborough Community College.
"We want to be the experimental campus," center manager Dann Berkowitz said. "Since we're so small, we can do that."
Night classes, Sunday classes, yoga classes — if students want it, Berkowitz said HCC will consider trying it.
HCC at the Regent opened as a satellite location to the community college's Brandon campus. Its site on Watson Road, just south of Bloomingdale Avenue, provides convenience to residents who live between HCC's Columbus Drive location and its South Shore campus, Berkowitz said.
"For me, it's awesome," said Rose Stevenson, 51, an insurance specialist in Riverview. She pops out of her job off U.S. 301 to attend a computer class just a few miles away at the Regent.
It's close enough for her to not take too much time off as she works toward an associate's degree, she said.
So far, the location has offered some basic classes in the spring and summer semesters. Its hallways remain somewhat quiet, Berkowitz said, because people are still finding out about the new campus.
But smaller class sizes, he boasts, means more interaction with professors. And no fighting for parking spaces.
"I think if they knew it was here, more people would come," said Stephanie Ticer, 20, a full-time student from Brandon. She has taken classes at several HCC campuses — Dale Mabry, Brandon, South Shore — but said the Regent is more convenient for her.
The Riverview campus has six classrooms, two of which serve as computer labs. Its fall schedule features nine classes, including introductory classes on teaching, computers, history and business.
The college also rents classroom space to local organizations, such as a writers' group and a religious group, Berkowitz said. It's well suited, he said, for hosting conferences or training sessions.
The community college owns the Regent and leases it to a separate board, which manages the building's event space. That board has recently come under scrutiny from the county for its use of taxpayer money.
The Regent received nearly $7 million in local, state and federal funds because it was to double as an emergency shelter and include HCC classroom space.
But the criticism, which in June led to a county audit of the board's expenses, centers on the upstairs area of the Regent: ballroom spaces for functions such as weddings and events.
Even though a sign outside says HCC at the Regent, Berkowitz wants locals to distinguish between the controversy upstairs and the college's separate classroom operations downstairs.
"We're here," Berkowitz said. "Make use of us."
Reach Stephanie Wang at email@example.com or (813) 661-2443.