Things are looking up in the Upper Valley city of Lebanon, New Hampshire. A large building in the heart of its retail district left vacant by the abrupt closure of Lebanon College will become a satellite campus for Claremont-based River Valley Community College. Classes won’t start until renovations are complete next spring, but business and government leaders already see the college as a spur for further economic development.
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The former Lebanon College anchored a cluster of small businesses around the corner from City Hall. Students used to spend money at The Shoetorium, Omer and Bob’s Sporting Goods, The Salt Hill Pub and Three Tomatoes, a bistro-style restaurant.
But this pedestrian-friendly retail courtyard has been all too quiet for about a year.
Robert Myers, owner of Three Tomatoes, is happy that River Valley Community College is bringing as many as 500 students to town starting next spring.
“Young students are potential new customers for us and it certainly makes for a more lively environment,” Myers said.
In addition to liberal arts, River Valley offers workforce training in light manufacturing, which is thriving in the Upper Valley. The college may also partner with Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center to train allied health care providers.
Myers says River Valley fills a void left by Lebanon College.
“This whole community, certainly we’re happy to have Dartmouth and Hitchcock here but there are also various different levels of education that community college provides that doesn’t exist right now without Lebanon College,” said Myers.
Lebanon’s Interim City Manager, Paula Maville, says the arrival of River Valley, which will also create construction jobs during a renovation, is well-timed. The whole city is about to embark on a master planning process to revitalize the area surrounding the school site.
“If you have a very successful educational institution then there are different kind of businesses that want to be part of that demographic," Maville said. "So maybe a different style eatery, maybe a smaller scale bookstore... something that will help to service that population.”
Maville has seen a lot of ups and downs in Lebanon since she started working in City Hall fresh out of high school about thirty years ago. She just earned a bachelors’ degree in management from Franklin Pierce College and looks forward to resuming her former job as deputy city manage when the new city manager, Dennis Luttrell, starts in September.