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College campus turns into construction zone

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

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 that’s 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 won’t 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 Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges, all of which rank their construction projects before they’re 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 state’s capital budget that’s based on

the state’s bonding capacity. That’s 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 they’ve done that with what

they call a state-of-the-art technology center that’s scheduled for completion

this December.

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.

Here’s 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 aren’t dormitories,

officials said. Students will sign leases.

The apartments originally were planned for Green River’s growing number of

international students until officials realized there was a strong interest in

student housing among local students.

The apartments aren’t being built with state money. The project was

financed by the sale of bonds based on the anticipated rental income, Ramsey

said.

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 school’s 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

Ramsey.

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

and offices.

• 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

of

the college’s international programs, now based in two trailers. Scheduled to

open this fall, it’s 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, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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