It's not that St. Petersburg College stopped caring about the campus with the white paint and red awnings and six classrooms in Midtown. It just outgrew it.
In February the college chose a construction firm as it presses forward with a new Midtown Center at 22nd Street and 13th Avenue S, a three-story building with brick accents.
The $14 million building will have more than twice as many classrooms and a smattering of other student spaces as the college tries to get locals to enroll and perhaps improve the Midtown neighborhood along the way.
The project also might help fill the void in Midtown left by Sweetbay Supermarket's recent decision to leave.
"We expect that this will transform this neighborhood," says Jim Waechter, associate vice president for facilities, planning and institutional services. "We want to bring the education to them."
St. Petersburg College president Bill Law has called the Midtown area "one of the richest for 15- to 35-year-olds in the county." But right now, only 8 to 10 percent of adults identified as eligible students within 5 miles of the campus actually enroll. Most of the college's other campuses take in about 12 to 16 percent of eligible students in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The new Midtown campus will allow students to complete two-year associate degrees, a role the current building is not equipped to handle.
Midtown's enrollment has more than doubled in the last three years to 457. But school officials hope the new building will see the head count bloom into thousands.
In addition to more classroom space, the new building will feature community meeting spaces, a tutoring center, counseling centers, financial aid offices and a library.
A ground breaking is planned for May or June, with construction taking about a year to complete. The new Midtown Center could be registering students for the 2014-15 school year.
As for the old building, the school isn't abandoning it. Officials are trying to buy the original campus from the local housing authority.
"We've really outgrown what's currently there now," says provost Kevin Gordon. But Waechter said the school has other ideas for the site, including a student counseling center or a registration office.
Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).