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WCCC's Latrobe Education Center to fill vacant lot

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Years in the making, a vacant parcel along Depot and Jefferson streets will soon see the development of Westmoreland County Community College's Latrobe Education Center.

At 11 a.m. Friday, local and county officials will gather to break ground on the $10 million building before college President Daniel Obara, Latrobe Mayor Barbara Griffin and Westmoreland County commissioners, among others, offer speeches. A reception will follow at the Latrobe Art Center.

Bids were opened June 20 for a contractor to implement the design by L.R. Kimball for a two-floor building with 30,000 square feet of classrooms, computer and science labs, study areas and offices.

Two community rooms will be included for use by local groups and an estimated 1,000 students who will use the center.

Nick Felice, executive director of the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, said he is glad the college worked with the City of Latrobe to keep the center in the central business district.

“They see the value in keeping the city vibrant,” he said.

One of five centers in Westmoreland County, WCCC's Latrobe Education Center resembles the project in New Kensington. That building, also within the city, lends itself to foot traffic, Obara said.

“We're hoping to do the same thing in Latrobe,” he said. “I would like to see the center really become a focal point for the community and have more individuals identify with it.”

Obara, along with Felice and other city leaders, hope the center can help spur more civic revitalization.

“It served the mission of redevelopment and removed some buildings that outlived their usefulness,” Felice said.

Students can benefit from downtown businesses and restaurants while community members take classes and attend gatherings there.

Classes in business, computer technology, science and health will be offered at the center, he said.

“Students will be able to complete more of their degree right there at the center,” Obara said.

College officials are expecting a 3 to 5 percent incremental increase in total enrollment once the new building is completed for the start of fall 2014 classes, Obara said.

Plans were first developed for the new center after a master facilities study by WCCC in October 2009. It recommended $3.5 million in renovations to the Laurel Education Center, just down Depot Street from the site of the new building.

The former Kennametal research facility was built in the 1950s and renovated in 1988 with capacity for about 450 students, Obara said.

The college acquired 11 downtown parcels covering 1.8 acres for the new building, which will include 92 parking spaces. The sites's boundaries are Loyalhanna Creek, Jefferson and Depot streets and Bank Alley.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or