The Clark College campus has gone through many changes since its founding in 1933 and continues to grow.
Last March, the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges gave initial approval for a $22,747,000 dollar renovation project that will see Foster, Hannah and Hawkins Halls replaced with a two-story, 40,000 square foot learning center adjacent to Frost Arts Center. Building plans are still being finalized and construction is expected to begin in six to eight years.
“Within the state system, the 34 community and technical colleges are invited to submit requests for major capital projects,” Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson said. “Through this process, funding was procured for the new STEM building, the Clark Center, the Columbia Tech Center and the new Boschma Farms campus.”
Although Clark is 21st in line among Washington state community colleges for funding, Williamson said the most important thing is the school is on the register and has submitted a design plan.
The state has guidelines for the colleges requesting major capital. The funds have to be used to aid with expanding the campus or to renovate or replace existing buildings. Since Clark is not in a state of expansion, administrators explored the alternative.
Foster Hall had the most wear and tear, according to a biennial state-conducted survey of facility conditions, which Williamson said convinced the administration that replacing Foster Hall should be its next major project.
However, as funding can only be procured for projects over 25,000 square feet and Foster Hall is only 13,000 square feet, the administration constructed a new plan that included additional renovations for Hawkins Hall and Hanna Hall.
Much of the proposal is still conceptual, but Director of Facility Services Tim Petta said the submitted designs will remain largely unchanged.
When drafting the building’s design, the school looked for outside help, but there were some stipulations. “We hired a consultant to help us put together our plan and a key element was to protect and honor the sacred site of the totem pole,” Williamson said. “That was element number one.”
The pole was erected in 1996 and named a federally protected sacred space in 2004, under the direction of former college President Tana Hasart. Petta said the sacred totem pole’s importance will be worked into the proposed building’s architecture and art. Petta described a series of paths that will branch out from around the totem pole, making it a central walking point visible from the street and parking lot.
Petta said the totem pole, a project spearheaded by the Native American Culture Club, will be showcased through large windows located on the northeastern side of the proposed building and visible from the road. “The concept in this design is that this will all be glass, so that people in the first and second deck will have open study area which will overlook the totem pole plaza,” Petta said. “We want to incorporate some interior design to connect this building to the unity pole.”
Petta said the new building will feature partitioned classroom walls, new study areas and larger corridor space and faculty offices to promote a positive atmosphere for student and teacher interactions.
The new building will feature new study areas and larger corridor space to promote a positive atmosphere for student interaction, where they can stop and talk to one another without congesting foot traffic, Petta said.
Petta said the three buildings will remain in use until the new building is complete, at which point they will be demolished. He said the resulting space could hold a locally-funded performing arts center that would boast hundreds of seats and serve as both an educational facility and a public community center.
“It would be really cool to have a performing arts center,” web design student Xavier Cornwall said. “Those buildings are really old and dingy inside.”
Student Emiliano Fruet said the larger classrooms would be a welcome change on campus. “Some of the classes are really cramped,” he said. “I came late to an economy class and there was nowhere to sit until students dropped the class.”
Williamson urged students to stay resolute and positive during the transitional phases, which he said would be accompanied by heavy machinery on campus and traffic congestion around it. “It’s worth the inconveniences to have a beautiful building.”