Ohlone College bond money replacing damaged buildings, connecting students to campus - Article, Office of College Advancement
Thursday, January 23, 2014—Reprinted from Mercury News.
By Chris De Benedetti, The Argus.
Fremont—This week, Ohlone College started the first of several improvement projects that will replace water-damaged buildings, lower its carbon footprint and make it easier to get around the steep hillside campus.
The construction, financed by a $349 million bond measure, will take about five years to complete and will come not a moment too soon for some buildings, said Patrice Birkedahl, Ohlone's director of college advancement.
Building the campus into steep hillsides in the early 1970s activated once-dormant water springs, Birkedahl said, and frequent flooding and mold have plagued some structures ever since.
"You can't stop the flow of Mother Nature," she said. "We're on a hillside, and water flows downhill. The continuing seepage has caused significant damage."
As a result, the community college uses just 120 acres of its 534-acre property in the Mission San Jose district.
"Most of our campus is not something we'll ever build on," Birkedahl said. "We'll pretty much always have the same amount of available land."
Ohlone's solution has been to replace and rebuild rather than build out. Enter Measure G, the bond measure voters approved in 2010 to upgrade the 40-year-old campus.
This week, crews began work on the South Parking Structure, the first of several Measure G-related projects. The five-level, $26 million garage will have nearly 900 spaces -- 500 more than the current structure. It will be built by Richmond-based Overaa Construction and should be completed by late summer next year, said Ron Little, Ohlone's vice president of administrative services.
Next year, the college will start work on the $135 million Academic Core Project, the construction's costliest but perhaps most important phase. Crews will knock down three buildings, totaling about 185,000 square feet, that house the administration, library and classrooms.
A new plant will centralize all of the college's utilities -- water, electricity, gas and sewer. That will allow the campus to recycle water, increasing its energy efficiency. "We'll use recycled water to cool buildings and systems, and we'll recirculate waste water to water our plants," Little said. The Academic Core Project should be done by the end of 2017.
Also, a $25 million phase beginning next year will renovate three other campus buildings housing the gym, swimming pool, cafeteria, bookstore and computer lab. Other Measure G projects include spending $30 million on solar panels on the Fremont and Newark campuses; $15 million to replace sewer, water and power lines; and $8 million on new soccer, baseball and softball fields.
Ohlone's Fremont campus opened in 1967 on Washington Boulevard and moved into its current site in 1974. Its Newark campus opened in 2008. The college has 16,500 students and about 650 employees, including more than 500 full- and part-time faculty, Little said. Its annual general fund budget is about $55 million.
For decades, students parked on the Fremont campus's lower west end and walked east to uphill classrooms via many stairways and ramps. Once construction is finished, students will park in the new parking garage, then walk along a tree-lined promenade to Main Street, a rebuilt half-mile stretch of level north-south road through the heart of the campus.
The college is doing its best to minimize construction effects on daily student life, Little said. That includes relocating classes to portables away from the construction zone and asking crews to avoid noisy work during midterms and finals.
"Our builders will be very sensitive to the college," he said. "The whole purpose of Ohlone is to educate students, so we'll do this work with that end in mind."