After four years of unprecedented growth, Front Range Community College will begin a $24 million renovation in Fort Collins, which will include a new art center and integrated technology building to house the school’s fastest-growing programs and nearly 10,000 students.
The construction projects are a result of a master-planning process that determined the campus needed another 90,000-square-feet in classroom and study space, and a major technology update. The remodel will add 63,000 square feet, and is the school’s first major renovation of several buildings since they were originally constructed in the 1970s – long overdue, according to FRCC Vice President Bruce Walthers.
“We have grown so quickly over the past five to seven years, and our growth is reflective of industry needs,” he said. “The construction is really addressing our current need, not predicted future growth.”
The remodel, paid for by $15 million in student fees and $9 million from the school’s budget, was designed by OZ Architecture and will be tackled in five phases over the next three years by Adolphson & Peterson Construction.
The integrated technology building, the first slated for construction, will house the school’s fastest growing programs: welding, automotive technology and clean-energy technology. It will feature a dedicated fabrication space for welding, more auto bays, lab spaces, lounge areas and a tech facelift.
“We can’t even turn out enough grads to meet the demand in welding right now,” said Walthers.
Phase two will include the Redcloud Peak building, which will be renovated to incorporate more space for art, music, dance, theater, natural resources and horticulture. The expanded space will include a Consolidated Arts Complex including a design center, an expansion in space for computer-aided design, multimedia graphic design, interior design and architecture, as well as a Black Box Theater and an outdoor arts courtyard.
Next on the list is the administrative building, Mount Antero, which will be redesigned into a central student lounge, study space and student services area. The building will house student organizations, the Learning Opportunity Center, tutoring and other academic support services.
Maroon Peak, the veterinary technology building, and Blanca Peak, which houses nursing, business and social behavioral sciences, will also undergo renovations.
All renovations will match the style of existing buildings, including the horizontal masonry, said David Schafer, the architect who worked on the project. More skylights, better insulation and other energy-saving measures will also be incorporated.
More than 84 percent of the 712 students who voted approved the stepped fee increase – $3 per credit hour in fall 2013, $5 in fall 2014 and $7 in fall 2015, where it will remain for the life of the bond, approximately 20 years. The fee will not be applied to credit hours over 12 – a full-time load.
The first project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.
The 12-month process that identified the space deficiencies included faculty, staff and student input. Since the last master-plan was completed in 2007, the school has grown by more than 25 percent, from 7,594 to 9,786 students.
FRCC’s enrollment boom reflects a statewide trend, as more and more prospective students find traditional four-year institutions increasingly unaffordable. Colorado community colleges added 41,000 students in the last five years, according to Colorado Community College System President Nancy McCallin.
She attributed some of the growth to recession-era workers returning to school for retraining, as well as the changing value of a two-year degree.
On average, one year after graduation, students with an associates of applied science degree earn almost $7,000 more than graduates of four-year bachelor’s degree programs across Colorado, according to a study released in March by College Measures.
Community College of Denver and Pueblo Community College are also utilizing the influx of tuition-paying students to renovate. The most common reason: the schools’ technology has grown obsolete.
“Technology 20 years ago was not used a whole lot in education, but it is integral today,” said McCallin. “We’ve seen a lot of projects approved in order to modernize, and teach in an environment that the students can learn in and have come to expect. We need to provide that in the college setting.”