Mercyhurst College to buy 400 acres in west county
In a move that brings Mercyhurst College one step closer to establishing a third campus in Erie County, the college’s board of trustees voted unanimously Thursday, April 28, to exercise its option to buy 400 acres located along Route 20 in Girard Township.
Mercyhurst will pay $1.85 million for the property, which is owned by the Society of the Divine Word in Chicago, Ill., said Mercyhurst College president Dr. Michael McQuillen. A four-month option the college held on the parcel expired Saturday, April 30.
Mercyhurst officials began exploring the idea of a west county campus more than a year ago. The concept is part of Mercyhurst’s strategic vision, a blueprint for the college’s long-range development that has reaped great rewards at the other end of the Erie County map with the establishment of Mercyhurst North East in 1991.
In announcing the board’s action, chair Marlene Mosco said, “This is a bold new initiative for Mercyhurst and we look forward to advancing the same kind of academic and economic development in the west county that we have been so successful with at our North East site.”
Although college officials will continue to calculate the cost of developing the property with buildings and related infrastructure like roads, water and sewer facilities, McQuillen said preliminary investigation indicates this particular site is best suited to the college’s overall needs.
A west county branch campus is expected to be modeled after its thriving North East counterpart, which operates as an opportunity community college offering two-year associate degree and certificate programs in fields such as nursing, culinary arts, business administration, and criminal justice.
The new campus would attempt to meet the unique manpower needs of the western half of Erie County by developing programs not currently available at other Mercyhurst sites, Mosco said. A market study, she added, that would utilize the resources of the Mercyhurst community as well as representatives of the west county, will help to identify the particular needs of the area as well as prospective academic programming.
Mercyhurst North East, meanwhile, currently enrolls more than 800 students. The anticipated fall 2005 opening of the Michele and Tom Ridge Health and Safety Building will double classroom space on campus to accommodate upward of 1,500 students. While the east county campus continues to grow in enrollment, only 6 percent of its students commute from west county, which the college believes advances the need for a satellite campus in the Fairview-Girard-Lake City area.