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AACC plans campus growth


Anne Arundel Community College is expanding its campus with a $10 million educational facility planned for construction near Arundel Mills to meet the demand in growing West County.

The 65,000-square-foot, four-story building will be north of the mega-mall's Muvico Movie Theater, a prime location to attract more West County residents who often attend closer community colleges in Howard or Prince George's counties.

"This is making it easier for people," AACC spokeswoman Fran Turcott said yesterday. "There's a lot of business to be served out there."

In plans released during ceremonies at the site yesterday, the Arnold college will lease from the Mills Corp. 4 acres in Hanover outside of Ring Road for the full-service facility, estimated to be finished by spring 2003. The AACC Foundation will finance the construction with tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds, Turcott said.

County Executive Janet S. Owens said the collaboration between the college, county, Mills Corp. and college foundation will help strengthen the county's work force. She said she hopes other higher education institutions, such as Morgan State University and University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will later join AACC in the expansion.

"My hope is that we'll see many flags flying from there ... many different educational institutions so we can have that full array of educational opportunities," she said.

The new facility will augment the college's evening courses taught at Meade High School. The college attracts fewer students from West County, one of the county's fastest growing areas, than any other part of the county, Turcott said.

"We have recognized for the past 10 years that we need to offer more, and we need to expand what we're doing there to serve the population," she said.

At the facility, students will be able to take classes toward associate degrees in general studies, computer technology and business administration. A partnership with four-year colleges and universities to enable students to pursue advanced degrees at the facility also is expected.

"With offering a business transfer program, anyone interested in getting into management positions at the Mills would consider us as a potential provider of education," Turcott said.

The college looked at other sites, including Meade High School, Fort Meade, Tipton Airport and Odenton. The mall's features - including parking, transportation and a food court - and the previous relationship with the Mills Corp. made the location ideal, Turcott said.

Dennis J. Connolly, vice president and senior development director of Mills, said the college and mall will complement each other because they have different peak hours.

"We just couldn't be more pleased to have them on site," he said. "It just furthers our partnership, plus it's a wonderful use to have there."

College officials anticipate that the project will build on the successful relationship that the college has with the Mills Corp. through the mall's Retail Skills Center. The center, which opened in November, teaches people retail skills that can be used in jobs at the mall. It is run by the Mills Corp., in conjunction with the community college and the National Retail Federation.

David A. Cool, director of the West County Job Initiative, a program that helps employ people from Meade Village and Pioneer City neighborhoods at the mall, said he's been "gently pushing" to get an AACC facility in West County. He said the college expansion, combined with the opportunities at the mall, will greatly help area students.

"I can't wait until the day where I see someone from Meade Village or Pioneer City go to the Retail Skills Center, get their GED, get their job in the mall and then walk across the parking lot to the community college," he said. "Then I'll know that everything we did to get this mall here was successful."

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