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3 New Faces Added to Gateway Board as School Prepares to Define Urban Campus

Gateway Community & Technical College welcomed three new board of directors members this week, and at their next meeting, they will hear a full plan for what's to become of the previously over-promised urban metro campus in downtown Covington.

Governor Matt Bevin appointed Sonja Adams, of Crittenden, Erik Hermes, of Cold Spring, and Charles Sessions, Jr., of Union, to join the board. It is his first set of appointments to the Gateway board since taking over as governor in 2015.

They replace Joseph Creaghead, Paul Whalen, and Chad Day, all appointed previously by Governor Steve Beshear. While Day had been a no-show for the past several meetings, Board Chair Ken Paul thanked Creaghead and Whalen.

"I'd like to thank Joe and Paul for their service to the board. Their expertise was very valuable to our work," said Paul. "As we look to the future, the experiences and backgrounds the new members bring will be important moving forward as a board and college."

The outgoing board members will be honored at the December board meeting.

The board also added Vivane Johnson as the student representative. She was selected by other students.

“I'm grateful to our departing members for serving the board and our students," said Dr. Fernando Figueroa, Gateway Community & Technical College president.  "I'm also excited about working with our new board members. Our college is poised to do great things as we partner with the community. Mrs. Adams, Mr. Hermes Ms. Johnson and Mr. Session will be tremendous assets in this endeavor.”

"I am very pleased to be appointed to the Gateway Community &Technical College Board of Directors," Hermes said. "I look forward to contributing my experience as an employer and business owner to benefit the students, staff, faculty and the community."

“It is an honor to be selected as a member of the Gateway Board of Directors, and I am looking forward to seeing what can be accomplished for the community,” Adams said. “Gateway offers a tremendous opportunity to support a trained workforce, and it is my desire to see the system continue to meet the growing needs of an expanding job market in Kentucky.” 

“I take seriously the opportunity to work collaboratively with educators, business, industry and community leaders to develop an environment and platform for students to reach their full potential,” Sessions said. “This will be the foundation for adding to a strong and vibrant workforce and talent pipeline in our region.”

"I am honored to be Gateway's new Student Board Representative and be of service to the board, the community, and the students as we continue and improve upon Gateway's success," said Johnson. "Thank you for this incredible opportunity!"

The next meeting of the Gateway Board of Directors is Dec. 7.

At that meeting, Dr. Figeuroa is expected to give a report on the future of the urban metro campus. When the master plan was unveiled exactly five years ago, in November 2012, Gateway promised a sprawling college campus utilizing historic and new buildings stretched across several blocks in downtown Covington. 

At the time, The River City News reported that the project was estimated at nearly $80 million, encompassing six blocks between Fourth and Seventh Streets north to south, and Greenup Street to Madison Avenue east to west. Planners set out to integrate the campus into the downtown Covington fabric, and cited the College of Charleston in South Carolina, the Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia, and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. as inspiration.

“Today’s announcement has been 10 years in the making. It is the culmination of many hours of collaboration, negotiation, discussion, and visioning by dozens and dozens of community leaders, government officials, concerned citizens, Gateway’s board of directors, faculty, staff and students, the Gateway Foundation board, and our planning consultants,” former Gateway president Dr. Ed Hughes said during the announcement. “We were encouraged early by the community to think big."

Real estate was purchased (primarily by the booster organization, the Gateway Foundation), renderings were created, and hopes were up.

But conflict among the board of directors and disappointing enrollment numbers across the school's multiple campuses ultimately led to Dr. Hughes, who had been the school's only leader in its then-14 year history, stepping down as president. After two interim presidents in a short period of time, Figueroa inherited a downtown campus that barely resembled the one promised, and seemingly lacked a focus on where it was to go.

Thursday's special meeting of the board of directors took place in the Technology, Innovation, and Enterprise (TIE) Building, a renovated historic commercial building on Madison Avenue, and the highlight of Gateway's redevelopment efforts. The school also transformed another old building on Scott Boulevard where its cosmetology program is taught. Gateway also offers classes at the former Two Rivers middle school building, and has retained its name. A college bookstore operates in an historic bank building on Madison Avenue.

Electric Alley, a placemaking initiative to create an inviting public space within the alley between the TIE and Two Rivers Building, appears to be moving forward, though that is a City of Covington project.

But there is no center for performing arts in an old Methodist Church, no technical classroom in the old senior services building, no child development center in the former YMCA, and no newly constructed building to house health and applied science programs on a vacant parcel of land on Scott Boulevard. 

The Methodist church is in the process of being sold. "The entity is ready to purchase," Paul said. "It should close before the end of the year."

At that point, the Gateway Foundation will only own the vacant land on Scott, commonly referred to as The Point property, a reference to the old events center that once operated there. 

"If we decide it's not needed, that property will also be sold," Paul said. "Because right now, real estate in all of Northern Kentucky is a hot commodity. Covington is booming at the seams. It's a prime piece of property and we don't want to sit here and hold it."
 
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher