By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — The building that once housed the Registry of Deeds will be razed later this month to create space connecting Northern Essex Community College’s two buildings downtown.
The college is erecting the Dr. Ibrahim El Hefni Allied Health & Technology Center, a $27.4 million project on Common Street, a short distance from the Louise Haffner Education Center on Amesbury Street.
College President Lane Glenn said Northern Essex is working with Groundwork Lawrence on plans for the 41,500-square-foot building site.
Constructed in 1950 as a courthouse, the building at 281 Common St. housed the Registry of Deeds in the 1990s. The building was empty for more than 15 years before Northern Essex bought it at auction from Capital Asset Management for $203,500.
To prepare the site, the college hired a company last December to remove hazardous materials from the building.
El Hefni Health and Technology Center is being built at the former dilapidated In-Town Mall across the street from the Registry of Deeds.
El Hefni Health and Technology Center is approximately 35 percent completed, with the structure of the building up as well as the roof. Crews are now working on duct work, electrical, plumbing, the sprinkler system and studding. The facade of the 39,000-square-foot building is not yet up, but the building is on schedule to open in the fall.
The center’s 23,000 square feet will house most of the college’s 18 health care associate degrees and certificates. There will be classrooms, labs, offices and simulation centers for phlebotomy, laboratories, intensive-care units, acute-care rooms, general nursing rooms, sleep technology and outpatient areas.
“This is part of a strategy we have to attract restaurants, book stores and other businesses that would develop into a comprehensive college campus,” Glenn said.
The center was designed by architects Miller Dyer Spears who also designed the Hartleb Technology Center on the college’s Haverhill campus. The three-story contemporary structure features sleek silver accents, which use the sun as a source of energy.
Glenn said Northern Essex has other projects in the works for its Lawrence campus, which he could not discuss.
“Northern Essex has had a commitment to this city for more than 40 years, and we intend on expanding that commitment and developing a comprehensive urban campus right here, working with the city, area business and organizations and anyone else who shares our vision,” Glenn said. “When completed, Lawrence will truly be a college town.”
Glenn said the El-Hefni Health and Technology Center is part of a larger plan for growth in Lawrence. Northern Essex added a chemistry lab to the Louise Haffner Fournier Education Center on Amesbury Street recently and opened NECC Riverwalk on Merrimack Street in the fall of 2010.
The college has two additional buildings in Lawrence: the Dimitry Building and the iHealth Building, both on Franklin Street. Established in 2011, iHealth@NECC is a public/private partnership aimed at preparing adults for careers in health care and is run out of the former Park Audi dealership.
Ernie Greenslade, director of public relations at Northern Essex, said the college’s Lawrence campus has 2,829 students enrolled, a 19.3 percent increase in five years.
“When we open the El-Hefni Allied Health & Technology Center, it will allow us to increase the number of programs and courses offered in Lawrence, and we expect that the number of students will grow very quickly as a result,” Greenslade said. “Lawrence is definitely our high growth area.”