1989 – Virginia Western Community College established the Center for Business Industry and Technology to meet the demand for workforce training and educational opportunities in the Roanoke Region. The number of participants soon exceeded space.

1990 – The Commonwealth established the Roanoke Valley Graduate Center in a street level parking garage downtown. Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Radford, Old Dominion and Hollins University currently offer graduate level programs there. Enrollment at the Graduate Center has quickly reached almost 1,000 adults and the lack of space has become an inhibiting factor for new students and programs.

1992 – VWCC commissioned a study to qualify the need for a new building on campus for its business Center. In 1992, VWCC asked the Commonwealth for $6.8 million for the building. No adequate sites were readily available. The college’s enrollment is increasing for both credit and non credit courses. VWCC has the smallest amount of land per pupil of any community college in Virginia and is landlocked.

1994 – The City of Roanoke, aware of the growing demand for training and the need for more college level offerings in the region, approached VWCC to discuss locating the building off campus where other educational providers could participate and programs could be provided “under one roof” and where expansion would be possible.

1990’s – Radford University and Old Dominion began offering the third and fourth year of undergraduate education (two plus two programs in concert with VWCC). Averett, Bluefield and Mary Baldwin Colleges entered the market or expanded in the market in various locations scattered throughout the Roanoke Valley. While enrollments from working adults have grown tremendously for these institutions, programs are limited by space and lack access to technology.

1996 – The Virginia General Assembly funded a study to determine the feasibility of converting the former headquarters building of the Norfolk and Western Railway into a training and education center. The study made three conclusions:

  • The building was a feasible structure for the Center
  • The cost of the renovation is favorable, compared to costs of new construction for similar centers in Virginia
  • Shared use would reduce by 30 percent the individual space needs

1997 – Roanoke College, Hollins University and Ferrum College joined the effort. This Valley Works and the Fifth District Education and Training Consortium, two significant providers of workforce training, requested space in the Center. This Valley Works plans to operate a unit of the nationally recognized program, Center for Employment Training, franchised by the U.S. Labor Department. The College of Health Sciences, an organization which prepares individuals for careers in healthcare, also asked to participate. With separately financed child care, an electronic library, small bookstore, and a vending area, the available floor space is filled.

1997 – Virginia Western Community College’s capital request for $6.8 million to build its Business Center received a number one priority from the Commonwealth.

1997 – The General Assembly adopted JB 1180. establishing the Roanoke Higher Education Authority. It is based on a model used by the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center Authority in Abingdon. The purpose of the Authority is to manage the facility, schedule use of space and provide centralized services to increase cost efficiency of the Center. The Authority goes into effect July 1, 1998.

1997 – The General Assembly asked the State Council for Higher Education to conduct a programmatic assessment of the need for the Education Center. In October, the Council unanimously endorsed the Center, concluding that a need exists for a center to provide workforce training, technology training and undergraduate and graduate education and continuing education. The assessment pointed out that the workforce development could not be served by VWCC alone. The Council also endorsed joint state and local financing of the project.

1997 – Destination Education, a group of more than 70 business, civic and educational leaders from the Roanoke Valley, was established to lead the regional effort to make the Roanoke Education Center a reality. The Committee has received letters of intent, endorsements and recommendations from any organizations, including the Virginia Higher Education Business Council, the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Roanoke Valley Economic Development Partnership.

1997 – The Chancellor of the Community College system committed that the $6.8 million request for a new center at VWCC would be withdrawn in favor of the Education Center if the $9 million state request is funded.

1997 – Letters of intent to lease space in the Education center from eleven Universities and Colleges as well as two workforce training entities have been secured.

1997 – Norfolk Southern donated their former headquarters building to the Roanoke Foundation for Downtown, Inc.

1997 – Governor George F. Allen included $9 million for the Center in his budget. In announcing his decision he said:
“By enhancing access to higher education and workforce training, as well as consolidating duplicative management functions, the Roanoke Education Center will offer even better educational opportunities for students. All levels of higher and continuing Education will be available at the Center, making it a unique project in the Commonwealth… The Center also will make the entire Roanoke region even more competitive and attractive for new business and industry.”

1998 – The architectural firm of Echols-Sparger (in association with Ayers/Saint/Gross) is selected to design the renovation of the building to contain the Center.

1999 – Programming efforts begin. Information is gathered to determine the exact space needs of all 15 institutions. Schematic design of spaces to accommodate the combined usage of the classrooms is undertaken. Construction documents are completed and construction is begun in October of 1999.

2000 – Construction is substantially complete in August of 2000 allowing the members to occupy the building and begin classes for the fall semester. Fall enrollment exceeded 2500.