BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) The century-old Virginia Intermont College abruptly closed its doors in 2014.
We have been following this story for two years now and found out the progress of a deal that could bring V.I.’s campus back to life, and paychecks to its former employees.
Without much warning to students and staff, VI closed its doors in 2014 after financial troubles, a failed merger, and the loss of accreditation. Since then it’s sat vacant.
“It’s a great location, it’s right there just north of downtown so in some ways it’s a gateway to downtown and it has a tremendous impact on that surrounding neighborhood,” Bristol, VA Mayor Bill Hartley said.
But the property, with its 30-plus acres and more than a dozen buildings, still hasn’t sold.
And it’s not just about the property, a former V.I. employee told us he still hasn’t been paid for his last few months at the school, and he’s not the only one.
The last time V.I.’s interim president spoke with us back in late 2014, he said those employees will have to wait for the school to sell before they are paid.
Now, city leaders say Southwest Virginia-based Bluefield College is making strides to open a campus at the former V.I. site.
“This is the first that I’ve seen rise up to this level to have that kind of proposal,” Hartley said about the progress.
Bluefield is seeking $4.5 million over nine years from the economic development fund of BVU Authority to open the campus.
The setback, this request comes right as BVU has put a freeze on accepting applications after a state-mandated audit found several issues with how the utility handed out the money in the past.
CEO Don Bowman said BVU is creating a new, detailed application process and policy.
“Hopefully it won’t be past the new year by much before we start taking applications. We really want to work on a communication plan, an outreach plan so that there’s business or industry currently located here that can benefit from the program or people interested in relocation here that that program will be available to them.” Bowman said.
If Bluefield is able to secure the funds and open a campus, city leaders say it plans to focus on science, technology, math, and engineering.
“To have a school like that it brings in professors, people highly educated people that make above average wages to work in the community, it brings a way to train students for jobs and when manufactures and industries are looking here you can point to we have a facility in our community to help train the workforce that you need for your business,” Hartley said.
After Bluefield presented its plan to the Bristol, VA Industrial Development Authority, the IDA recommended the project to the Bristol, VA City Council. The city council tabled the decision until the college could apply for the funds with BVU, according to Hartley.
Bart Poe, Interim Director of Economic Development and Community Development for Bristol, VA said right now Bluefield is the only name in the running to buy this property.
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