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Gateway College Takes Big Step Toward Urban Campus with Building Purchase

The event was called "Growing IT (information technologies) in Covington" and one presentation stole the show with the announcement of what is expected to become a Downtown Covington landmark. Ed Huges, President & CEO of Gateway Technical and Community College, told the packed house at the Radisson Hotel that the school has purchased the former Marx Furniture building on Madison Avenue. By 2013 or early 2014 the Gateway Technology & Design Center will be fully operational.

Hughes hopes the new center will serve as an anchor in Covington for economic, civic, social, and educational development. The move toward an urban campus is much different than the way Gateway has developed its suburban campuses which tend to be close to interstates and away from where people live. In Covington, "our students will be integrated into the fabric of our community," Hughes said. The campus will develop around six blocks on Madison Avenue, Scott Boulevard, and other nearby streets. The college considered other locations in the city including Twelfth & Madison, the old Bavarian Brewery building where Jillian's most recently operated, and also near Holmes High School before finalizing a spot.

The Marx Building deal will be made possible by the sale of Gateway's campus on Amsterdam Road. Hughes envisions a Downtown Covington that rivals the college community that sprung up around the Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia or the College of Charleston in South Carolina. "If you've been to Savannah, you know what this is going to look like," Hughes said. The urban campus "will have an impact in this community that goes beyond a six block radius."

Currently Gateway operates its urban campus inside the building that formerly housed Two Rivers Middle School. The college also recently moved some programs into the Odd Fellows Hall in the space formerly occupied by Tier One Performance Solutions which moved to the RiverCenter towers and which also works closely with the college. All in all, Hughes said that the college will occupy 50,000 square feet of space in Downtown Covington.

Design, visual communication, and other technology-based programs will get a big boost from a nearly $5 million grant the school secured from the federal government, beating out competition from Northwestern University and the University of California among others. Hughes said that that funding will go toward creating a program at Gateway that will not be available anywhere else in the United States. 

Gateway's announcement followed presentations from other entities that trace their humble beginnings to Madison Avenue and now thrive as major players in the field of information technologies. C-Forward, 3Z.net, and Tier One celebrated their $55 million impact on the region over the past several years and representatives from each expressed hopes that more similar operations look to start and grow in Covington.

As for Gateway, there is more news to come. "Stay tuned for more, as we roll out more firm plans," Hughes said. "We're at first base. Wait till we round third and head for home."

PHOTO: A rendering of what the new Gateway College center would like in the former Marx Furniture Building/RCN