Higher education: college projects could depend on state funding
The Tri-Cities’ two colleges have plenty of capital projects planned in the coming years, though some are dependent on approval and money from the state Legislature.
At Washington State University Tri-Cities in north Richland, the campus now has an apartment complex open for students who wish to live close to class and has plans for a new $3 million academic building.
Columbia Basin College in Pasco bought the new SunHawk Hall housing/apartment complex across the street from the school.
In addition, CBC has plans to fill out the fourth floor of the Rand Wortman Medical Science Center in Richland and is looking at building a new student recreational center and gymnasium on the Pasco campus.
Fall 2018 enrollment at WSU Tri-Cities dipped 5 percent compared to the previous year to 1,841 students. It was the only WSU campus to record an enrollment drop.
“It’s grown 33 percent over the last four years,” said Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities spokesman. “We anticipate growth as we offer more programs.”
The first of multiple phases of WSU Tri-Cities apartments on campus opened in August 2018.
Known as the Brelsford Vineyards, the apartments are at the north end of campus and include one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom units.
The apartments are owned by Vineyards Apartments LLC, and operated by DABCO Property Management, which also manages several apartment complexes near the WSU Pullman campus.
WSU Tri-Cities partnered with Corporate Pointe Developers, which formed Vineyards Apartments, and agreed to build the apartments to provide students with an on-campus housing option.
Dennison said students and faculty have priority for the apartments.
“But if people who live and work in north Richland want to rent, they can too,” Dennison said.
In May 2018, the WSU Board of Regents approved a $27 million academic building on the Richland campus in its 2019-21 state capital budget request and 10-year plan.
In January 2018, the state Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee approved $114 million for construction and renovation projects throughout the WSU system.
Among the WSU projects was a design development for the new academic building on the Tri-Cities campus, worth $3 million.
“The last two legislative sessions, we got the pre-engineering money funded, and the design building funded,” Dennison said. “We anticipate the state will approve the next step. We’re hopeful.”
That budget approval should come in January 2019.
In September 2017, WSU Tri-Cities opened its $5.73 million campus student union building.
The 9,951-square-foot building has a 2,437-square-foot multipurpose event space, new furniture, a gathering space, coffee bar, interactive TV monitors, and offices for the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities and the office of student life.
“It’s been great,” Dennison said. “It’s our third semester in there.”
Columbia Basin College
CBC opened the new SunHawk Hall complex last fall.
SunHawk Hall, on 20th Avenue across from CBC and next to Sun Willows Golf Course, has 44 apartment units on three stories. There are 126 beds.
The building has 26,800 square feet and is located on five acres.
CBC anticipates construction of three more apartment buildings, depending on demand.
“The dorms are seeing an increase in student interest,” said Tyrone Brooks, vice president for administrative services at CBC. “We’re getting the word out. Occupancy is higher than last year. Application numbers seem high.”
In addition, CBC is anticipating a couple of other projects to start.
The college would like to fill out the fourth floor of the Rand Wortman Medical Science Center, at 940 Northgate Drive in Richland, across the street from the Richland Public Library.
“The first three floors are being used,” Brooks said. “We’re filling out the fourth floor. We’re expanding our dental hygiene program.”
Brooks estimates the cost to finish the building to be about $3.7 million.
The building, which has 72,600 square feet, opened last year and is used for training health care professionals. It features 32 examination rooms, X-ray room suite, doctors’ offices and training facilities for college classrooms.
The cost of the project was $17.7 million, with $3 million donated by Kadlec Regional Medical Center. The building is named after Kadlec’s former chief executive officer, Rand Wortman, who retired in May 2016.
CBC’s board of trustees has approved the plan for the top-floor renovation work. But the state Legislature has to approve it.
If so, Brooks anticipates the design and bid process to get going early 2019.
“We have a target of having the construction complete by 2019,” he said.
The need is there, he said.
“Our current dental hygiene lab is fully filled,” Brooks said. “It’s on the Pasco campus. There is a waiting list for students to get into the program. The new facility will give us more hygienist chairs.”
Brooks said CBC trustees approved an estimated $400,000 for the pre-design process for an improved recreational center. An architect will look at what students want.
The facility would include outdoor equipment, a basketball court for students (intramurals), plus renovate the current basketball court that the school’s basketball and volleyball teams uses.
Brooks isn’t sure what the capital projects budget will be yet.
“It’s too soon,” he said. “We’ll need to wait and see what the state Legislature does for the 2018-19 budget.”
But the state won’t fully fund a new recreation center and gym.
“The state considers a gym and athletic facility ancillary,” Brooks said. “So it doesn’t pay for those.”
Not all of it, anyway.
“The students elected to provide an increased fee to help,” Brooks said. “They see the benefit. Students are increasingly asking for more recreational activities.”
Once the Legislature decides on a budget, if it’s approved, CBC will move forward.
“It’s its approved, that’ll be the start,” he said. “We’ll issue the debt, then start the design and construction.”
The goal would be to have the facility opened in fall 2021.
Meanwhile, Brooks continues to look for more land and analyze student growth.
“I’m always concerned about land availability,” he said. “It’s really a long-range plan function. Our master plan goes out 70 years. We are seeing a slight increase in student growth locally for the next couple of years coming up, about 5 percent. But we see it as fairly flat in 2021. There is a natural ebb and flow in the community.”