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by Eric Ginsburg & Jordan Green

Items from across the Triad and beyond

Downtown university campus announced at South Elm and Lee Streets

Planners kept the location of Tuesday morning’s press conference a secret until right before it happened. They wanted to stand on the site selected for a planned downtown university campus, but didn’t want to give away the surprise.

Speaking from a long-vacant lot on the corner of South Elm and Lee streets a stone’s throw from the main stretch of downtown Greensboro, backers said they picked the site over two other final contenders because it met criteria and allowed for opportunity.

Mayor Robbie Perkins said about $7 million went into cleaning the site and the soil to make it ready for development, putting it back on the market for the “tremendous, productive use we have in mind today.”

“This anchors the southern end of downtown,” Perkins said, adding that there has been plenty of development on the north side of the city’s core.

The campus, a joint venture of GTCC, UNCG, NC A&T University and Cone Health, grew out of a few years of planning.

After identifying the three best areas for collaborative programming and space utilization, stakeholders decided to focus on healthcare professions (including nursing, radiography and a simulation laboratory), a global opportunities center and continual & distance learning. A feasibility study was completed in June, focusing on downtown site options to facilitate collaboration and stimulate economic development.

Sites were evaluated based on a variety of factors, including visibility and potential for iconic design, economic development potential, cost and ease of acquisition. The chosen property, unlike the others, is owned by the city.

The first phase calls for 105,000 square feet of space spread over four floors, more than 300 parking spaces in a deck, classrooms, an auditorium, seminar and meeting rooms, a simulation lab, faculty offices and student support facilities. Design and construction is projected to cost $26.4 million with the full price tag coming in around $40 million. Backers are hoping for significant foundation and corporate “gap” financing.

Mayor-elect Nancy Vaughan said on the campaign trail that she supports the downtown campus project and would like to see it built on the South Elm/Lee site. Other city council members have also expressed support for the project, but the full extent of the city’s role and relationship to the project hasn’t been solidified. — EG

HIGH POINT MAYOR INDICTED ON FELONY CHARGE

High Point Mayor Bernita Sims was indicted Monday afternoon for “felony worthless check.” Sims allegedly willfully drew a check for $7,000 payable to Gwendolyn Ponce from an estate account in which she knew she didn’t have sufficient funds to cover the commitment, according to the indictment in State of North Carolina v. Bernita Sims. The indictment states that the check was written on Nov. 11, 2012.

Sims, who could not be reached for comment, had already come under fire from fellow High Point council members due to the allegations. The council voted 6-3 along racial lines to ask for her resignation over the matter last month. Sims, the first black mayor of High Point, was elected last year. — EG

BERGER JR. ANNOUNCES PLANS TO RUN FOR SEAT VACATED BY COBLE

Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. plans to announce his candidacy for the 6 th Congressional District seat at Bethany Community Middle School, a public charter school in Reidsville, on Wednesday morning. Berger is the son of Phil Berger Sr., the president pro tem of the NC Senate. The two houses of the state legislature redrew district lines in 2011. The new 6 th Congressional District significantly overlaps Berger Sr.’s state Senate district, where the family name is familiar to voters.

Dallas Woodhouse, a former state director of Americans For Prosperity, confirmed Berger Jr.’s plans to run.

The announcement earlier this month by US Rep. Howard Coble that he plans to retire after 28 years in Congress has generated intense interest in the seat.

The News & Record reported that Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny, a moderate Republican who has supported economic development projects such as the Greensboro Science Center and the Greensboro Aquatic Center, is also strongly considering running for the vacant seat. Matheny voted in favor of a resolution opposing the marriage amendment last year.

The News & Record also reported that Lawndale Baptist Church associate pastor Mark Walker, High Point GOP activist Don Webb and Jamestown area pastor Dan Collison have said they plan to enter the race.

Former UNC System general counsel Laura Fjeld is a Democratic candidate for seat. — JG

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