CMC to offer downtown Rifle classes
Colorado Mountain College will open a new downtown Rifle location in August, marking what could be a benefit to the city’s central business district, as well as potential students.
Renovations at the new CMC Downtown Rifle Academic Center, located at 229 West Ave., are in progress, and CMC plans on offering a limited number of classes in the fall semester. Once complete, the building will feature five state-of-the-art classrooms, as well as a day-care center.
The decision to open a new center in downtown Rifle a little more than three miles from CMC’s Western Garfield County Campus on Airport Road was twofold, explained Rachel Pokrandt, CMC Rifle campus dean.
Enrollment at the Rifle campus has steadily grown to the point where no additional classrooms are available in the fall and spring semesters.
“We’re one of the faster-growing locations in the district, and we’re running out of space,” Pokrandt said.
CMC had already been renting space in various locations in the downtown area for its English as a Second Language program, which helps non-English- or limited-English-speaking residents develop their language skills. Establishing a permanent home for the program was essential to better serving those students.
The second reason came from conversations Pokrandt said she had with some residents who were unaware CMC still had a location in western Garfield County after opening its campus on Airport Road in 2007. Prior to that, CMC was located in downtown Rifle.
“It became apparent that a lot of people forgot they have a college in the town,” Pokrandt said. The new location will help “elevate our profile in the community and let people know all the great things we have to offer.”
For students, though, the new location could mean easier access. Rifle resident Steven Larch is in the process of earning his GED at the campus on Airport Road. Without a means of transportation, Larch walked for nearly four months to classes from his home on Fifth Street — more than 6 miles there and back.
These days an education is necessary in order to earn a livable wage, Larch said in explaining his decision to go back to school. He is on track to complete the GED program within a month, and plans on going for his associate degree in science.
About a month ago, Larch started volunteering and helping out with maintenance work, which helped secure a ride to and from classes.
Larch will still have to travel to the Airport Road campus after completing his GED, but the new location will be a welcome addition for people who do not have transportation, especially if the college expands its class offerings there, Larch said as he sprayed grime off the outer walls of the new location earlier this week.
“It’d be a whole lot easier,” he said.
The fall semester will serve as somewhat of a “soft opening,” filling the space about 50 percent of the time, Pokrandt said. In addition to the English as a Second Language program, CMC plans on offering Spanish classes, as well as some GED courses. From there the offerings will grow to meet the community’s demands and desires, Pokrandt said.
Exercise classes, some general education classes and concurrent enrollment courses for high school students are all future possibilities.
Assuming the demand is there, the new location could be a boost for the central business district, said Mel Kent, manager of the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. Kent referred to the center as a potential anchor — an economic development term used to describe institutions that withstand economic downturns and in some cases spur growth.
Leaning more toward the growth aspect, Kent, who brought the location to CMC’s attention, said the added foot traffic through downtown could provide a spark for downtown businesses in need of more customers.
“You need to sustain foot traffic to sustain retail,” he said, adding that CMC could play a “big” role in doing just that. “It’s a big statement for the community, for the college, and it’s a big boost for all the retail and restaurants.”
CMC wanted to make a statement when it expressed a desire to locate in downtown, Pokrandt said.
“It’s really important for us to be involved in the downtown development effort. There’s some exciting things going on downtown, and I think it’s important for CMC to be involved in that,” she said.
The move is an investment. CMC will pay $35,000 per year to lease the space from Glenwood Springs attorney Bill Kaufman, who has been great to work with, Pokrandt said.
Many years ago, the building actually served as a shopping center with four individual shops, said Tim Kaufman, Bill Kaufman’s son. It served as a church after that for about 15 years, and has been vacant for about the past four to five years.
The Kaufmans did serious remodeling work in the past year, Tim said, and could have potentially received more money renting out each of the four sections individually. However, the benefit to the community of having CMC downtown outweighed any desire for increased rent revenue, Tim said.
“We wanted to support what we believe is a very valuable thing in our community, and having that right downtown is a good thing,” he said.
CMC will host a free public open house, with ice cream, entertainment and special guests from 4-6:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the new campus.
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