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North Central Texas College aiming for expansion to Denton

North Central Texas College wants to have a downtown Denton campus open by fall 2019 and is negotiating to take over the Denton Record-Chronicle building at 314 E. Hickory St. 

A lease between NCTC and property owner, The Martino Group, has not been signed, officials said. Brent Wallace, president of NCTC, said he expects to hear from the Texas attorney general's office this week for approval of a lease-to-own agreement for the property.

"We're really excited about this downtown Denton prospect," Wallace said. "That will be the hub for academic transfer work."

The Denton campus primarily would host academic classes that transfer seamlessly to the University of North Texas and Texas Woman's University, Wallace said. He also hopes to focus on technology fields and grow academic programs based on community demands. 

Both universities have partnerships with NCTC, so students don't lose credits when they transfer. At TWU, almost half of the undergraduate students transferred from community colleges. Of those, NCTC is the university's largest partner, said Barbara Lerner, associate provost at TWU. 

"TWU thrives with transfer students, and transfer students thrive here," Lerner said. "We're very proud of our work with transfer students, and NCTC has been our No. 1 community partner in that effort." 

Both local universities have dozens of partnerships with NCTC across various disciplines and degree plans. Rebecca Lothringer, director of admissions at UNT, said NCTC operating a campus closer to UNT's Denton campus will lead to more opportunities for students. 

"We're definitely interested in the opportunities to increase partnership, so I see this as another avenue and a stronger place for that partnership to really grow," she said. 

There would be other perks for students to be downtown, Wallace said. They would be two blocks from a public transportation hub at the Downtown Denton Transit Center, and NCTC would be in a better position to form partnerships with nearby people and institutions, he said. 

Additionally, if NCTC moves on Hicktory Street, it intends to keep the PointBank Black Box Theatre and hopefully be able to stage shows in the space, Wallace said. There also are plans for a nearby parking garage, he said. 

Faculty will split their time between Corinth and Denton to teach various courses, Wallace said. Core university services for Denton County students, including financial aid and registration, will remain in Corinth.

Core classes required for traditional bachelor's degree programs still will be at Corinth as well, but the focus will be shifted to health science programs. 

NCTC is based in Gainesville and has an additional Denton County campus in Flower Mound.

Brandon Martino, co-owner of The Martino Group, said his company has not signed a formal lease with NCTC, so there aren't plans yet for how to transform the office building into a college campus. 

"I have heard they're looking downtown, and we'd love to have them as a tenant," he said. "I think it would be great downtown." 

The Denton Record-Chronicle has occupied the property at 314 E. Hickory St. since 1947. The newspaper is set to move out of the building by August and move into new offices on Duchess Drive off Loop 288. Then, Martino Group's sister company, Links Construction, would renovate the space to suit the new tenant. 

Initial negotiations show NCTC paying a little more than $1 million per year for the space over 20 to 25 years, Wallace said. The price would increase throughout the term might cost $1.4 million per year on average.

Wallace expressed excitement about the downtown Denton plan moving forward because he and other NCTC officials have been working on the deal for the past year.

"Personally I am, and for the college, really thrilled about this," Wallace said. "We're excited."

But it's not a done deal until the attorney general's office approves exactly how the lease will be structured and executed. Then, the lease can be signed.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.