New Saint Andrews moved into the former GTE building at Friendship Square in 2006, with room for 200 students. The 2017 plan, which was approved, allows it to add as much as 300 more students at the former CJ’s nightclub on North Main.
Although concerns are occasionally raised about its impact on downtown parking, Mayor Bill Lambert and local Realtor Shelley Bennett both credit New Saint Andrews with contributing to the Main Street economy.
“The GTE building was vacant for three or four years before they came along and bought it,”Lambert said. “I think that helped.”
Bennett, who has worked in commercial real estate the past 25 years, said the addition of 200 faculty and students was a shot in the arm for local businesses.
The downtown core was “stagnant” for years and years, she said, until after the 2007-09 recession. Businesses would come and go, but there weren’t enough customers to go around — until New Saint Andrews opened.
“That really helped move things forward,” Bennett said. “Having people downtown makes the difference. If we had a whole bunch more nonretail businesses, that would hurt downtown. But (the expansion at software development company) Emsi and a few hundred more students at New Saint Andrews will keep it strong.”