Exterior construction has been completed for the new downtown campus of Gateway Community College.

More than 200 people gathered at the corner of Church and Crown streets on Jan. 20 as the steel frame was completed for the new downtown campus of Gateway Community College. This marks the completion of the first step of a $198 million state-funded project that began in January 2010.

Final construction for the college is scheduled to be completed in May 2012, Dr. Dorsey Kendrick, the college’s president said.

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“The citizens of this community deserve, need and desire a comprehensive, technologically equipped, sustainable, state-of-the-art learning institution,” Kendrick said.

Gateway serves over 11,000 full- and part-time credit students a year in over 90 accredited academic programs that lead to associate’s degrees or certificates, and approximately 2,300 students in a wide range of offerings through continuing education, according to the college’s website. The current Gateway student population is expected to grow after the downtown campus opens, with an expected 14,000 students on the new campus alone, Evelyn Gard, Gateway’s director of public relations and marketing, said.

The campus covers 360,000 square feet of land previously occupied by department stores.

When completed, it will include two four-story buildings with 90 classrooms, 10 meeting spaces, 22 computer labs, a bookstore, a health center, an early learning facility and a small business center, Kendrick said. The campus building is the first state-funded building gold-certified in “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED), providing verification that a building was built using strategies that improve energy savings, water efficiency and carbon dioxide emissions reduction.

Kendrick, who has been president of the college since 1999, said the new building will help accommodate more incoming students. Most of the students, he said, who have to “juggle a lot of things” work downtown, and therefore the campus will also provide an opportunity for them to be close to their work.

“We think that because the campus is in New Haven we will get more students who don’t normally have access [to Gateway],” Gard said.

Gard added that being close to the University would also allow students easy access to resources, noting that Gateway students can easily visit the Yale Center for British Art and Sprague Hall. The campus will benefit not only Gateway students, she said.

“It’s going to be enriching to Yale students to see who we are and who our students are,” Gard said.

Gateway currently offers more than 90 associate’s degree programs and operates from two campuses — one in Long Wharf and another in North Haven. Most of the classes are scheduled to meet at the new downtown campus, and students will be able to move between the three campuses using a bus transportation system that the college will provide, Kendrick said. After the completion of the downtown campus, the North Haven campus will only be used for the automative technology program, since the facilities associated with it are difficult to relocate, she said. Kendrick said the opening of the new campus does not necessarily guarantee that Gateway will be hiring new faculty, unless it is to replace retirees or for new programs.

Louis D’Antonio, the dean of administration at Gateway, said the Long Wharf and North Haven buildings are estimated to be 40-45 years old.

In 1992, South Central Community College and Greater New Haven State Technical College were merged and renamed Gateway Community College.