Friday, March 15, 2013
SAN DIEGO You may have noticed all the cranes in downtown San Diego around 16th Street lately. San Diego City College has been constructing six new buildings, and the second one opened on Friday.
The new Math and Social Sciences Building is five stories tall and 85,000 square feet. In fact, City College had to buy the entire city block for the project, in part because they also built a seven-story, 400-spot parking structure.
Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, said it was a big undertaking.
“We are replacing rather than expanding, and in order to have this building, we had to purchase an entire city block, and deal with residents, eminent domain," she said. "It was a very, very complex undertaking. But as you can see from the students and their pride, it was well worth it.”
Juanita Lopez is an English major at City College, and she hopes to someday teach at a two-year community college like hers.
“I’m currently taking a class right here in the new building, and I love it. I think it’s very accessible for me,” Lopez said. “The classes are bigger, so more space, including for myself because I’m in a wheelchair. Even the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible. They’re big enough; in the older building I had difficulties because of that. So overall this building has helped me become a better and successful student.”
Lopez also likes the new whiteboards because they’re easier to read than the chalkboards in the old building. And with elevators on both sides of the building, she can get to class much quicker.
The ground floor houses a bookstore and a convenience store with an espresso café. There’s an expansive corporate education center with large meeting rooms that Chancellor Carroll said can be used by nearby businesses. The top four floors are packed with offices and classrooms for math, social and behavioral sciences, history and political sciences, and black and Chicano studies.
The new building’s $81 million price tag was paid for by taxpayers. It’s part of the $1.6 billion of bonds raised by Propositions S and N, which voters passed in 2002 and 2006. City College was allocated $500 million of those bonds, which they’re using for an expansion project that will add six new buildings and renovate eight more. They’ve added 4,000 students in the last decade, with 18,000 students currently, but they hope to increase enrollment much more by the project’s completion.
“When we finish our building program in the next three or four years, we will have a facility collectively that will be able to accommodate 25,000 students, and that will be the City College of the future,” said City College President Terrence Burgess. “I see this building project as one of the legacies of my tenure here as president. I’m very proud of that.”
Burgess has been involved with this project for more than a decade.
“To walk into the building and think this was an idea we had a decade ago, and here it’s a real thing,” Burgess said. “Walking around the building this morning and talking with students and how excited they were about being in facilities they say are just like an Ivy League university, in terms of the quality of the facilities, so I feel spectacular.”
But not everyone is feeling as wonderful about the City College expansion as Burgess. There was pushback from the residents whose land was purchased for the expansion, and there are complaints about the disruption of downtown traffic due to construction. Burgess said they’re completing construction as efficiently as possible.
“Construction on a campus is disruptive. But one of the beauties of a bond program like this where we have all the resources available at the beginning is that we can build the buildings simultaneously, so you’re only disruptive once,” Burgess said. Still, you can expect to see construction around the campus for the next four years.
As Burgess put it: “It is disruptive, but it’s all for a good thing at the end.”