Olympic College builds itself for the future

The Sophia Bremer Child Development Center, scheduled to open in January, is the most recently completed construction project at Olympic College. - Lynsi Burton/staff photo
The Sophia Bremer Child Development Center, scheduled to open in January, is the most recently completed construction project at Olympic College.
— image credit: Lynsi Burton/staff photo

For Robert Seiberlich, finding a student parking spot at Olympic College requires a little imagination.

When class time approaches and he’s faced with a choice between parking legally and getting to school on time, he opts for the latter.

“Eventually you invent your own parking space and get a ticket,” said Seiberlich, 26, adding he’s been cited for parking violations multiple times.

Students like Seiberlich who are on a daily hunt for parking spaces hope the construction of a new 230-space parking lot on campus will ease the pre-class congestion. The parking lot is the next major Olympic College construction project in a year that saw the completion of two new buildings — the $30 million Humanities and Student Services building, which opened in March, and the $4.5 million Child Development Center, which celebrated its grand opening last month and will open in January. These followed other big construction projects for the school in the past decade, including the Haselwood Library, completed in 2000, and the $21 million Science and Techology building, which opened in 2007. Construction will begin on the $1.8 million parking lot, to be located at the corner of Warren Avenue and 13th Street, in a few weeks.

The school has a running wish list of additional new buildings and renovations it hopes to secure money for in the next few years, but because state construction dollars have been scarce the past couple years, projects have been delayed. Still, Olympic College is pursuing $53.5 million for the design and construction of the next project on its list, a new College Instructional Center.

Cramped parking

As for the new parking lot, students say more parking is needed, but have mixed opinions on whether it will solve all parking woes.

For one, the 50 to 60 cars that already park on the site of the future parking lot will be displaced until the lot is finished in August 2011.

“That’s gonna get worse till it gets better,” said Running Start student Taylor Loveless, 17.

Taylor, along with other students such as 16-year-olds Diane Brown and Jessica Carlson, arrive at the campus well before 8 a.m., when they say the scramble for parking begins, so they don’t have to circle the campus for a spot.

But Jordan Smith, 17, doesn’t have that option. It takes at least a half-hour for her to find a space when she comes to school in the middle of the day.

“Parking is horrible from 9 to 12 and I can’t get here earlier because I go to class at high school,” she said.

The new parking lot may not put an end to parking problems, but it will be better than nothing, said Ken Blankenship, capital projects coordinator at Olympic College.

“It’s tight parking here, everybody knows,” Blankenship said. “I don’t know that it will eliminate it totally. It’s definitely going to help.”

Campus wish list

Next on Olympic College’s project list is a new College Instructional Center, a 75,000 square-foot building that would house art, music, theater and possibly the nursing program. The predesign work on the building is underway so the school will be prepared as soon as it secures money from the state.

“We want to have everything ready in case the state breaks the money loose,” Blankenship said.

The school hoped to get the money during the state’s 2009-2011 budget cycle, but the project was deferred. Now, the school is aiming to receive $3.5 million in design money in July 2011 and then obtain $50 million to start construction on the building in July 2013, said Barbara Martin, vice president of administrative services.

Money to expand the shop building — a $13 million job — was also delayed by the state. It was initially on the state’s list to receive money along with the College Instructional Center, but now the Center will come first, Martin said.

Meanwhile, during the past year, the school has received energy upgrades that are intended to pay for themselves in utilities savings in less than 10 years. The school spent about $1.3 million to make light fixtures throughout the campus more energy-efficient and to install heating and ventilation controls and water restrictors. Another round of energy upgrades will begin in the next couple weeks, including the replacement of electrical panels in the Bremer Student Center, Blankenship said.

The school will begin working on a new master plan for the campus next year, when it will prioritize future building projects.

The engineering building needs to be replaced or repaired and the automotive, physical education and business and technical buildings need renovation, Martin said.

“There’s quite a bit on the horizon we need to work on,” she said. “But we’ve made a lot of progress and we feel good about that.”

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