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O.C. Campus Will Have More of a Sense of Community, According to Plan

Orange Coast College will be rebuilt in phases over a decade, opening up the center quad and adding 11 facilities in a $200-million makeover.

June 13, 2004|Susan Anasagasti | Times Staff Writer

When Thomas Jefferson designed the University of Virginia, it was with the philosophy that students would gather around the school's rotunda to socialize or study, read and relax. He wanted shared learning to infuse daily life.

Two centuries later, Orange Coast College officials are taking a cue from America's third president, hoping an ambitious $200-million renovation project will help unify its student body.

"There was a feeling that the campus was missing a sense of community," said OCC spokesman Jim Carnett. "The idea is to open up the center quad to help facilitate communication on campus. When the Master Plan has been fully implemented, the campus will look like a completely different one."

That's great news to many students, who say the cluttered grounds of the Costa Mesa community college make it tricky for students just to walk across campus.

"I like the idea of more open space. It really isn't convenient the way the buildings are set up right now," said student Deana Molina, 28. "The added dust and noise won't be good. But it'll be worth it at the end."

Under the new plan, much of the center of the campus will be demolished. But it will be done one step at a time, officials said, taking about a decade to rebuild.

"It's important from an aesthetics standpoint that the campus maintain the same feel it has now," Carnett said. "The campus is well landscaped, and that is not going to change."

Also not changing, Carnett said, is the Robert B. Moore Theatre, designed by internationally known architect Richard Neutra. "It's considered a historical landmark," he said. "That's not going anywhere."

Eleven facilities will be added, including a clock tower, a learning resource center, a student center, an amphitheater and physical education facilities. The plan also includes the renovation of six areas on campus and expanded parking lots, Carnett said.

Students, faculty and staff hope the work will modernize the campus. Although some won't be at OCC when the project is expected to be completed over the next decade, most agree the 164-acre campus is ready for change.

The money comes from a $370-million bond issue approved by 65% of the voters in the Coast Community College District in November 2002. Of those bonds, $200 million was allocated to the OCC project, said Rich Pagel, vice president for administrative services. "Right now as we start to plan to construct these buildings, we have to ensure that our buildings will meet future needs of our campus," he said.

Construction on individual projects, including LeBard Stadium, has already begun. The stadium, which has played host to more than 750 high school and college football games over the past 50 seasons, will soon have new artificial grass and handicap-access rails.

The Master Plan was developed over the past year. But it's still "a living document," said Rush Hill, architect and chairman of Hill Partnership Inc. "There are a lot of different concepts that were deployed in the creation of this plan. It will continue to change as we begin to formalize ideas."

Hill said each OCC building was evaluated to determine whether it was worth restoring. After talking to students and staff, administrators concluded that it was best to essentially start from scratch.

"We listened to their vision of what the school should look like," Hill said, who added that the firm held meetings to identify problems. "They are the users of the campus ... who understand what the good things on campus are and what the missed opportunities have been."

Many of the college's old buildings were converted from military use into classrooms 50 years ago. Once an air base, OCC opened in 1948 to 515 students. Before the days of air conditioning, Carnett said, buildings were designed depending on the direction of prevailing breezes. While the winds continue to cool OCC, the buildings are outdated.

"Most of these buildings have outlived their youth," Carnett said. "The new buildings will accommodate how students learn today."

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