College campus turns into construction zone
June 13, 2008 · Updated 11:33 AM
By PAT JENKINS
A building boom is going on at Green River Community College, where three major construction projects are nearing completion and a fourth was finished in the last 10 months.
Add an expansive outdoor commons thats two months away from its grand opening, and the south King County campus resembles a construction zone almost as much as a college.
A technology center for students studying information systems is rising on former athletic fields, a 340-resident student housing complex near the main entrance of the campus is scheduled to open in September, and a building for international programs is taking shape.
In addition, a new performing arts center opened last May to replace the old performance building. The latter was demolished to make way for the new commons that will include an outdoor amphitheater.
Green River officials hope the makeover wont end with the current projects. New buildings for science programs and other classrooms are planned and waiting for potential funding next year.
GRCC is among Washingtons 34 community and technical colleges, all of which rank their construction projects before theyre submitted as part of an
overall system to the Legislature. The schools compete against each other for state
funding, unlike state-supported universities that propose their projects
independent of each other.
Projects get their financing from the states capital budget thats based on
the states bonding capacity. Thats separate from the operating budget, which
is based on revenue collected by the state.
Rising enrollment at Green River whose students come from nearby Federal
Way and other King and Pierce county locales, as well as overseas and
demand for certain types of training and education helped the Auburn-area college
secure state funding for most of its recent projects. For instance, officials
said, the school has struggled for nearly a decade to make its facilities
adequate for computer technology courses. They think theyve done that with what
they call a state-of-the-art technology center thats scheduled for completion
The new home for courses in information systems and programs received
approval for funding in 2001 from the Legislature. Instructors and other college
personnel designed the facility in tandem with S. M. Stemper Architects, which was
hired for the project.
The building site was once occupied by a running track and softball field.
When completed, the two stories and 31,000 square feeet will allow training in
information technology and related fields to expand, partly by making more
efficient use of the existing computer lab space, said college spokesman John
Ramsey. Existing labs are essentially single-function, while the new facility
will accommodate multi-program classrooms with the option for expanded
hours, he explained.
Goals for the center include a 24-hour computer commons for students and
more opportunities for classes in network design and computer repair and
assembly classes, officials said.
Heres a snapshot of the other projects at Green River that are underway,
complete or on the drawing board:
The Campus Corner Apartments are scheduled to open for student
living in September, housing 340 first-come, first-served students. Each unit
has a kitchen, four bedrooms and two bathrooms, but they arent dormitories,
officials said. Students will sign leases.
The apartments originally were planned for Green Rivers growing number of
international students until officials realized there was a strong interest in
student housing among local students.
The apartments arent being built with state money. The project was
financed by the sale of bonds based on the anticipated rental income, Ramsey
The Green River Community College Foundation created a limited liability
company as the financing vehicle to finance the project. The company, GRCCSV, will
own the apartments. Capstone Development Corp. was hired to develop the
project and will manage the apartments.
The new 15,600-square-feet Performing Arts Building had become inadequate
for the schools growing fine-arts programs. Original plans were to renovate
the old one to meet current codes and standards, but state officials said that
would be too expensive and went instead for a new structure, according to
Home to drama, music and dance curriculum and performances, the new building
includes a stage, seating for audiences of up to 300 people,. practice rooms
The new Kennelly Commons, occupying the campus-center location of the old
performing arts building, was built with the help of a $600,000 matching grant.
Named after former college trustee Bill Kennelly and scheduled for a grand
opening and dedication in May, the open area includes a new outdoor amphitheater
that provides seating for informal gatherings of students or outdoor classes,
a garden with native plants and a water sculpture.
Construction has begun on a 4,500-square-feet building that will be the hub
the colleges international programs, now based in two trailers. Scheduled to
open this fall, its the fourth in a series of classroom and office
structures built near the gymnasium.
A new science building is expected by college officials to receive the okay
for construction funding from the Legislature next year, with the start of
construction tentatively set for that summer. The 70,000-square-feet structure
would be next to the new technology center and would replace the existing
science-technology complex, which was one of the first built at the college in the
mid-1960s and now is in poor condition, officials said.
A new facility for classes in chemistry, physics, astronomy, life sciences,
geology and health sciences would accommodate increasing enrollment pressure
and provide accredited science programs meeting industry and marketplace
demand for student training, Ramsey said.
Two other aging classroom building complexes would be replaced by one
general-purpose building if, as GRCC hopes, the project is added to the
project funding list for design in 2005.
Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org