College construction off to good start

Workers still are moving earth at the corner of Winkler Avenue and Colonial Boulevard, where International College’s Fort Myers campus will open in less than a year, but they should begin pouring concrete by the end of the month.

“It will start to take some kind of shape soon,” President Terry McMahan said.

In April, the private North Naples-based college will move its Lee County classes from a 35,000-square-foot site in a commercial center on College Parkway to a three-story, 60,000-square-foot building on a 16-acre campus. The site has room to add a second 60,000-square-foot building someday, but college officials say they do not know when that may happen.

This week, McMahan explained what the $14 million project’s new building will look like. The plan is similar to the layout of the college’s Naples building but has an additional floor and a few new features, such as science labs and a large group meeting room.

The first floor will have administrative offices, library, tutoring room and a board room. The second story will be filled with computer labs and classrooms, including chemistry and biology labs — something not yet available at the Naples campus. College officials are pursuing permits to add a 15,000-square-foot modular building to house labs there.

Faculty offices, a large multipurpose room with catering capabilities and additional classrooms will be housed on the third floor. The building will have 24 classrooms.

International College is a private school offering associate, bachelor and graduate degrees that was founded in Naples in 1990. The College Parkway location opened in 1992.

The move makes it the first college within the city limits. Fort Myers already houses a branch of Barry University, which has offices and classrooms, but not a campus.

International College officials say they chose the central location to give students from Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres and Cape Coral easy access. The campus will give them a recognizable home, McMahan said.

“It gives them a sense of pride, a sense of image in the community,” he said. “It’s their campus.”

International College’s move into the city’s boundaries will be a benefit for Fort Myers residents, said Mayor Jim Humphrey, who will sit on the board of trustees.

“International College provides a special niche for adults to go to school at night,” he said.

“It helps us to be a well-rounded city,” he said. “Education is an important ingredient (in that).”

The Lee County expansion is needed because of the college’s rapidly growing enrollment, McMahan said. Between 700 and 750 students take classes at the south Fort Myers location now. The new campus will be able to accommodate 1,200 to 1,500 students — an enrollment number McMahan expects to reach in three to five years.

The campus will give the college the room and facilities to add and expand its degree programs. Officials are researching several possibilities now, but McMahan said more study is needed before they announce what those programs could be.
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