The U-building project on the Eastside of the PCC main campus for a fall 2024 opening after delayed state funding, supply chain issues, the pandemic and debates over the design pushed its opening by over two years.
As of early 2023 the project is about 25% complete and is on schedule with a substantial completion date of April 3rd, 2024. Meaning that all labor on the project has ceased for 60 days by that date. The first U-building was found to have seismic issues in 2012, which led to its closure and the relocation of much of the on-campus science education to portable classrooms in the Science Village.
Since the closure of the previous U-Building, most of the science departments had no permanent residence. Until 2019 when the state gave funding to the school to start the construction of a new, improved science building. Former PCC Superintendent Dr. Jack Scott and Dr. Erika Endrijonas went to Sacramento to talk to state senator Anthony Portantino and other local elected officials to explain how the school was in dire need of the funds to replace the U-Building, as its seismic hazard made it unsafe to utilize. Which is why the state began providing funds for the school. The funding came from Proposition 55 which is a California facilities bond that was passed on the November 8, 2016 ballot.
The U-Building will be 5 stories tall and 104,000 square feet. The demolition of the old U-building began in March 2021 and construction began in January of 2022.
“It’s been coming along really nicely. It’s been basically going I think since basically last January so it’s been under construction for about a year,” special assistant to the superintendent Alex Boekelheide said.
The building in total cost $60 million, with state bond funds covering 85% of the costs, and a local commitment covering the remaining 15%. Specifically, the state bond funds are being used to pay off loan debt initially taken out to pay for the construction.
“Measure PCC has written into the language of that bond measure which is the taxpayers saying they’re gonna pay extra property tax to give us some money to do facilities work,” Boekelheide said. “We wrote into the language of that bond that the funds could be used to pay down existing debt, so we have loan agreements already that we are using to fund the work and we’re going to be able to use bond proceeds to pay those loans down, so the bond will pay for Sarafian work we just don’t have to wait for that bond to be there.”
The U-Building, also known as the Armen Sarafian building, will house both the Natural Sciences and the Health science divisions, providing students with modern labs, classrooms, and equipment.
“We would have liked to have had this done a while ago,” Boekelheide said, “it did take some time to find the funding and get the financing lined up so that was the bulk of the delay in there but now that we have gotten the financing things have been progressing normally, and there have been you know delays here and there with supply chain issues.”
However, bond funds cannot be used for equipment or supplies which is why thePCC Foundation created the Advancing Science campaign in December 2020 to raise funds for supplies such as thermometers, microscopes, engineering tools, and lab materials in general relating to specific programs. Along with educational equipment, the campaign will also provide funds to fully furnish the classrooms with desks, chairs, computing facilities, and more. The campaign aims to raise $4 million.
Current science students have expressed relief and excitement for the new building and what it will offer, despite the fact that many The Courier spoke to are planning to graduate before its completion.
However, a few students wish to see improvements in the Science Village in the meantime as one 2nd year biology major expressed her concerns with power outages, water leaks, and the lack of drinkable water sources. Saying that the electricity had gone out twice during the fall semester, and there would be water leaks into classrooms through the air vents during rainy days, and that students would prefer to have a bottle filling station rather than a water fountain that most don’t utilize.
A few staff members are expecting great opportunities from this building, hoping it will expand the STEM programs and offer more specialized education. Natural Sciences Dean Veronica Jaramillo hopes to bring an increase of community and is excited to see the interaction and collaboration between the natural and health sciences departments at PCC.
“The U-Building is going to provide an amazing learning environment,” Jaramillo said. “In all of the areas we’re going to have the ability to really do some interesting science because we’re going to have a building that’s designed to give students a more interactive experience.”
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