Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in the Industry edition of Progress.

East Texas Baptist University and the Marshall Economic Development Corporation have teamed up to bring life back to the old Downtown Capital One building, located at 100 N. Bolivar St., through a planned project to create the school’s new Synergy Park.

The 49,000 sq. ft. building was purchased by ETBU in November 2021, with MEDCO pledging $1 million in economic development funds for the project later that month.

The plan would combine the new building with the ETBU School of Nursing and William B. Dean M.D. Center for Language and Literacy Development, which is housed in the Marshall Grand, with a number of classes for the William B. Dean center planned to be held in the new building.

According to ETBU representatives, the purposes of the project were to:

• Effectively engage employers, community-based organizations and educational institutions;

• empower community members to be workforce ready and to match the skill needs of an evolving marketplace;

• provide clinical mental healthcare, speech-language pathology services and literacy development strategies to individuals in the community;

• offer adult education, continuing education, workforce training and professional and graduate-level education programs;

• unite individuals and organizations for networking to foster cooperative avenues for professional growth, organizational success and economic development.

“(MEDCO) looked at the property to identify candidates for use with the broker. It’s a big space, and finding tenants during COVID would be difficult. Our private office industry owners and realtors were feeling the constraints, too. Competing with private interest was not an option,” Rush Harris, with MEDCO said, “Dr. Blair Blackburn, President of ETBU, presented an aggressive yet feasible idea for a building that otherwise would have sat stagnant. He had a vision to convert the building into part of the ETBU downtown campus while still providing for the economic and workforce development needs we were experiencing locally.”

MEDCO’s $1 million pledge consists of an initial grant of $750,000 to cover site improvements and a $250,000 matching grant to stimulate private investment in the project.

Site improvements will include an engineering design, mitigation and refurbishment. Once completed, the new building will house undergraduate and graduate courses for the William B. Dean M.D. Center for Language and Literacy Development, as well as a community clinical mental health counseling office.

The vacant space in the Capital One building will also be available for small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits at a discounted rate. The project also has plans to collaborate with other colleges and the Marshall ISD to develop a holistic community workforce development program spanning from early childhood to retirement.

“Synergy Park is a catalyst for change,” Harris said, “The concept, in my view, is to promote awareness of opportunity, mentorship, engagement of interests and interaction between people of all ages and ethnicities to develop their individual opportunities while improving the collective community good.”

The project initiation timeline for Synergy Park could begin as early as summer 2022, with a phase I projected completion date of late summer/fall 2023. ETBU Construction, an internal institutional construction management operation, will serve as the construction manager/general contractor for all phases of remodeling and construction of Synergy Park.

“When you have private investment with sound vision, planning, and financing that aligns with the city’s goals, I believe it only helps builds capacity and lift livelihoods of citizens that participate. This is a step forward for the community. ETBU has been adding to local investment. We support that,” Harris said.

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City Reporter

Jessica Harker has been the city reporter with the Marshall News Messenger since 2019.