CHARLES TOWN – American Public University System is working on plans to expand its campus in Charles Town and Ranson, with the intention of constructing two new buildings and a parking garage in the near future. The university is also considering building two more facilities in the longer term.
[cleeng_content id="894307884" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]APUS officials unveiled their plan at the Charles Town Council’s meeting Monday night, where they requested that a small road and a notional, unconstructed alley be vacated.
The council unanimously agreed to vacate the town’s claims to Valley Place and the paper alley, both of which will be entirely taken up by the new construction.
Wallace “Wally” Boston, president and CEO of APUS, explained in an interview that the school is prepared to move forward with significant construction projects.
“[One] would be a four-story building similar in size to the academic center building but probably a bit larger,” he said, adding that they plan to construct a three-story parking garage at the same time. “We would like to break ground in the spring.”
APUS is also planning to move forward with construction of a new facility in Ranson on the site of a former Maytag factory.
“We are taking down a former warehouse,” Boston said. “We are going to use part of that piece of property to build a new building to house our information technology staff.”
Planning work for the new construction is ongoing, so precise cost estimates are not yet available.
Boston said the new facilities will allow APUS to consolidate its operations, bringing several sections of the company from Manassas, Va. to Jefferson County.
“We are going to increase our employment here in Charles Town,” he told the council. “We have some functions that are currently located in Manassas that will be moved into the new building.”
Boston says that APUS will continue to hire new employees as well.
“It is important for us to plan for the long term and make sure that we have buildings and space available for our employees,” he said. “We are very committed to doing that in Charles Town and Ranson. We are going to grow here.”
Construction will also allow the school to move out of some of its smaller buildings, which are spread around Charles Town.
“It is much more efficient for us to operate larger buildings,” Boston said. “We have no intention to abandon those buildings.”
Boston said APUS hopes to eventually sell or lease the smaller buildings.
He said APUS will continue its prior commitment to environmentally conscious building by ensuring that their new buildings meet standards established by the Green Building Council.
“We are committed that all of our new buildings will get a minimum of a LEED Silver certification,” he said. “Anything we start construction on we will build to those standards. They will be very energy-efficient. You put in energy-efficient HVAC, use tinted windows, put in windows that you actually have the ability to open.”
Boston said that APUS hopes to continue growing, though he said he expects that the company’s breakneck growth is likely to level off to some degree.
“We have benefitted from the popularity of online education,” he said. “I think that is flattening out nationwide right now and so we’re seeing a slowing of that growth. Whereas we grew in the 15 to 20 percent range previously, single digit growth is what I think some of the analysts that cover the company think we’ll do.”
Boston said increased competition is the primary challenge for APUS’s growth.
“[Online education] is still becoming more popular, but there are more schools that are doing it,” he said. “We have a strong belief that we can do some unique things that will continue to attract students to the school.”
In the longer term, Boston said APUS plans to build two additional facilities in Charles Town, one of which will be a large conference center.
“Our eventual plan is to build a conference center with an auditorium that could seat up to 1,200 people, plus some conference rooms,” he said, adding that the company is examining making the facility available for some public uses for low or no cost.
Boston also told the Charles Town Cuncil that APUS is working on a plan to make parking in the new three-story garage available to the public on the weekends, if liability issues can be resolved.
“There are many examples of this being done in communities throughout the country, so I think we can work something out,” he said.
Members of the council praised APUS for remaining committed to growth in the local area.
“This is wonderful to see this kind of investment,” said council member Ann Paonessa.
Council member Rich Bringewatt agreed.
“We’ve been through some tough times economically in this town, and I think that Charles Town is as well positioned for success in the next five to 10 years as any town around,” he said. “I think that is in large part because of the kinds of things that American Public University has done for this community.”