Planned Corry PA technology center has a new site: Corry Higher Ed

Impact Corry and the Corry Council of Higher Education are partnering to open the new Learning Center and Center in the Council of Education building at 221 N. Center St.

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CORRY — An optical system and education and training center planned for the former Corry Memorial Hospital will instead be located in downtown Corry.

The hospital’s property restrictions and renovation costs of up to $18 million led the nonprofit Impact Corry to team up with another nonprofit, the Corry Higher Education Council, to develop the project in the Education Council building instead.

The technology center and Corry Area Center will occupy about 8,000 square feet on the top two floors of the five-story building at 221 N. Center St.

The CATCH center will include a fiber hub, a kind of command center for a fiber optic internet system that will serve Corrie’s businesses and residents. The center will also have classrooms and labs for technology training programs and co-working space for businesses.

“Businesses could compete on Wall Street or run cartoon games from a fiber optic hub,” said Impact Corry CEO Chuck Gray. “Operations that chew up bandwidth or rely on high-speed Internet want to be located in a fiber node.”

The cost of locating the center in the Higher Ed building is estimated at $7.8 million, including $2.5 million for the construction of fiber optic nodes and $5.3 million for building renovations, classroom furnishings, laboratory equipment and classroom program.

The Impact Corry Board of Directors and the Corry Higher Education Council have agreed to partner on the project.

“The agreement basically says that this funding comes to the Superior Board of Education and drives renovations, and that other money stays with Impact Corry for the fiber optic hub that will be ours,” Gray said. “But the Higher Ed Council can benefit from the fiber hub as a commodity, and the two organizations can work together to provide the rest of the matching funds needed.”

Major funding already secured for the CATCH project, including a $2.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the Pennsylvania Budget Office, could be used by the new partnership to develop the center at its new location, said Grey.

“Because we will be doing essentially the same work and the focus of the grant is still on the jobs that will be created by the project, the Office of the Budget approved the transfer of funds to the project,” Gray said.

Only one grant for the project was site-specific and cannot be used for the CATCH center at its new location, Gray said, but partner nonprofits can reapply for that funding, she said.

From 2022: Corey plans a technology and learning center

Switch sites

The main obstacle to renovating all or part of the 88,000-square-foot former hospital at 612 W. Smith St. was cost, including the necessary roof replacement, Gray said.

“Restrictions on ownership transfers added to the cost of renovation made it financially unfeasible and put not only the project but our organization at financial risk,” Gray said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have given up this space. It is a remarkable facility to which the people of Corrie are attached. We desperately wanted to resurrect him, but we couldn’t risk it.”

“With so many issues and questions surrounding the ownership of the hospital, our board decided that we could not continue to be a major tenant there and that we needed to focus on this building and its potential,” said Council for Higher Education Executive Director Matt Platz .

The hospital building was donated to the project by the Pike family.

“We are incredibly grateful for their generosity,” Gray said.

Instead, locating the Education and Training Center at the Corrie Higher Education Council will preserve another Corrie landmark. The Council for Higher Education Building, originally the Corrian Hotel, was built in the early 1920s and is included in the Corry Downtown Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

And the downtown location will be a bonus, Gray said.

“We’re going to get that energy from CATCH in our historic retail district. We will have the potential to expand to take advantage of the fiber hub. The Higher Education Board will not have to move its offices to deliver education,” Gray said. “And we’re bringing vibrancy to a landmark building.”

The top floors of the building have been empty since the hotel closed around 1990, Platz said. Renovations needed for the CATCH center include adding an exterior elevator to the rear of the building. Its current elevator is outdated and its shaft is too small to accommodate a larger elevator now required by building code, Platz said.

Current programs and future plans

The Corry Center for Higher Education offers adult education and workforce training and provides classrooms for Erie County Community College and Northern Pennsylvania Regional College.

The partnership with Gannon University includes a satellite program for two Cory-area high school students to participate in Gannon’s Business Development Beehive Program.

A new partnership with the EC-Council will deliver a cybersecurity certification program.

The new Corry Area Technology Center and Center will focus on training for additional technology jobs, including aviation, fiber optic installation and coding.

“What we’re creating is a workforce talent pool for the digital economy,” Gray said.

Impact Corry and the Corry Higher Education Council hope to have the CATCH center open in 2025, possibly with a rooftop lounge or restaurant to provide additional operating income.

“The advantage is having a flat roof and the best view in Corrie,” Platz said.

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Contact Valerie Myers at [email protected].

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