South College Expanding West
South College, already nearing capacity at its 4-year-old Lonas Drive building, has signed a long-term lease to occupy most of the corporate office space in the former Goody's Family Clothing headquarters, where the school will expand its education and health care programs including a planned pharmacy school.
South College will take almost 85,000 square feet of the one-time corporate offices off Parkside Drive and has an option to lease the remaining 50,000 square feet. The former Goody's distribution warehouse, which covers 350,000 square feet on the site, is not part of the South College expansion.
Terms of the lease agreement were not disclosed, but as part of the 10-year lease South College reached with property owner SJW Land Co. of San Jose, Calif., the school can renew the lease for a second 10-year period. As part of the expansion, the school will vacate its classroom space on Hayfield Road at Parkside Drive when its lease expires in late summer.
The growth is expected to create about 50 jobs within three years, according to the school, which now employs more than 160. The Parkside Drive learning center will be about 30,000 square feet larger than South College's Lonas Drive building.
Steve South said he signed the lease last week, almost 20 years to the day after he acquired Knoxville Business College and Cooper Institute to form South College.
"We want to expand, and if we want to expand, we need to add space," South said, adding that work will begin within a month to renovate the former corporate offices into classroom and lab space. "In the last two years we've grown 21 percent year over year."
Johnson Architecture of Knoxville is doing design work on the project. A general contractor has not yet been named.
South noted that the school has grown from 600 students to more than 1,000 in five years and has seen a sizeable increase in course offerings.
As an example, the school's physician assistant program admits 50 students a year but now has 700 applicants for those seats, according to Kimberely B. Hall, South College executive vice president.
And a major reason for the growth is the addition of a degree program in pharmacy.
South College has received approval for the program from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Last month it submitted an application for pre-candidate status to the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. The council will conduct an 18-month review of South College's new program. If approved by the ACPE, the school will begin pharmacy classes at the Parkside Centre Learning Site in August 2011. Accreditation by ACPE allows South College pharmacy graduates to take their Tennessee board exams to become licensed pharmacists.
South College is planning to admit 50 students in its first-year pharmacy program and eventually increase that to 75. The school is offering an accelerated program, where students can get their doctor's degree in pharmacy in three years instead of the standard four years, Hall said. If the pharmacy program is approved, South College would join East Tennessee State University, Belmont College, Lipscomb University, Union University and the University of Tennessee as schools in the state with pharmacy programs.
The Knoxville-based school also is offering advanced degrees for teachers and education students.
When the renovation is complete in time for fall semester, students in the nursing, physician assistant and education programs will report to the new Parkside Centre Learning Site, which will have new labs and library and have access to an auditorium built when Goody's occupied the facility. Goody's vacated the site when it went out of business in early 2009.
Remaining at South College's Lonas campus will be business, legal, criminal justice, medical assisting, radiography, physical therapist assistant, science and general studies programs and courses.
Hall said 600 to 700 students will study at the Parkside campus and about 600 at the Lonas campus.
South said he was actively looking to build another education facility in West Knoxville and had eyed the Goody's building when he was approached by local real estate brokers Louise Fogarty and Jay Cobble of Blue Ridge Cos. and Don Brewer of Realty Investment Services.
"I thought I had enough space here," South said, referring to the Lonas Drive campus that fronts the junction of Interstates 640 and 40.
But student enrollment and study programs that were full and growing forced South to quickly reassess his situation.
The Goody's site also has a high-profile position along busy I-40 between Cedar Bluff and Lovell Road.
"It had everything we were going to build, including an auditorium," South said. "We can now add programs we couldn't have three years ago."
South is considering adding a culinary arts study program and distance-learning courses, where students from outside the area could take courses via the Internet.
Hall said South College continually reviews education growth areas 10 and 15 years out and works with Knoxville-area employers to fill needs, such as offering more health-care fields. She said projected growth areas for the next 10 years are physician assistants, physical therapy assistants, medical assistants, imaging professionals, business programs, and elementary education teachers.
"While we've grown, we're still a small-school environment," Hall said, adding that the class sizes range from 20 to 50 students and the student-teacher ratio is 15-1. "We're still in a small-school category." She noted that employment has been growing, too, doubling in five years.
Cobble said the brokers were hired last spring by SJW to market the Goody's property, which sits on 55 acres near the intersection of Parkside Drive and Lovell Road. Negotiations with South College began some time after that.
Cobble said local interest in leasing or buying the property has been stronger than outside interest, although several parties outside Knoxville have inquired.
"Given the market conditions, to find such a large user to expand into that space is ideal. It's great news to help a company grow and find a good use for the space. It helps the Knoxville office market to stabilize the space," Cobble said.
He described the Goody's space as Class A in a premiere location with "excellent demographics and incredible visibility to promote the business."
Cobble said Class A office space in Knoxville typically leases for $18 to $24 per square foot, with new construction of Class A space going for $20 to $24 per square foot.
"We have had a lot of interest in that property and have been negotiating with more than one user. And there's still interest in the remaining space," Cobble said.
Business editor Bill Brewer may be reached at 865-342-6319.