OCC breaks ground on latest project

Orange Coast College broke ground on its $35 million interdisciplinary complex this week, kicking off one of many major construction projects in the works at the campus.

The building, adjacent to the Adams Avenue parking lot, will open in fall 2015. It will house facilities for computer science, math and business.

The building, funded by Measure M, a $698-million bond measure passed by Orange County voters in 2012, will be part of a larger complex that will probably include literature, language and social science classes in the future, said Rich Pagel, vice president of administrative services at OCC.

"There's a lot that will unfold in the next 10 years," he said.

The first floor of the building will have 10 computer labs, three lecture halls seating up to 90 students, a dean's area and 30 faculty offices, which will make it easier for students to find their instructors.

"The first floor is meant to facilitate access to the faculty, which is important for students," Pagel said.

The second and third stories will each feature 13 lecture spaces, each seating 45 to 90 students.

The building is a needed on OCC's campus, which was build in the 1950s and 1960s, said Doug Bennett, executive director of college advancement.

Justine Smith, a 19-year-old student studying early-childhood development, said that although she probably won't be at OCC when the new building opens, she is looking forward to seeing the effect it will have on educational opportunities for her fellow students.

Smith has been in classes in the current math building and neighboring lecture hall and said the facilities definitely need updating.

"The way the lecture hall was set up made it really difficult to pay attention to what was going on during class," she said.

Officials say new chemistry facilities, a new student center, a planetarium and possible student housing are among the many projects on the horizon for the campus.

"We have projects lined up like jets coming in on a runway," Pagel said.

This week also marked the unveiling of the college's $4.8 million renovation to its music department.

Bennett said the project was paid for with the last bit of money from Measure C, which

passed in 2002 and gave the district $370 million.

The upgrade includes a new recital hall with seating for 77 people, stage lighting and state-of-the-art acoustics.

The rehearsal spaces were also redesigned and improvements were made to heating and air conditioning in classrooms, Bennett said.

Dana Wheaton, wind ensemble director, is impressed with the updates to the facilities, especially the design aspect of the recital hall.

"There was a lot of orange before," he said. "It looked like a band room designed by 'That '70s Show.'"

In addition to the renovations, the college purchased eight new Steinway grand pianos, six upright practice pianos and 26 digital practice keyboards.

Wheaton is confident the upgraded facilities will bring exceptional talent to OCC.

"It's definitely something students notice," he said.

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