Delays at 860 Atlantic still frustrate trustees
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 15:03
The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees received an update Tuesday night/Feb. 26 from Vice Chancellor of General Services Dr. Sadiq Ikharo on the construction project at 860 Atlantic Ave. in Alameda, a property the district purchased nearly five years ago.
The district acquired the building, which used to be the home of a biotech company, after entering into a land swap and property exchange with the City of Alameda at a cost of $7.5 million. The space will be used as labs for the Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Genomics departments at the College of Alameda and Merritt College.
But the trustees have met delays in the completion of renovation and modernization projects with impatient fervor.
“In the overall scope of things, we’re talking about five years to modify an existing building.” Trustee Bill Withrow said. “This is a prime piece of real estate, not a back-water facility. To not use this property is hard to justify.”
Trustee Abel Guillen echoed Withrow’s comments, adding, “When I looked at the building, one of the reasons I was convinced was because it was a modern building and it didn’t need a lot of work, but it took us three years to go through the process,” he said. “The other piece why we wanted to go into this agreement was to provide contract education, and that certainly has never happened. I understand some of the needs have changed and the need for a swing space, but we missed an opportunity to lease some space in interim.”
According to Ikharo, much of the delay was do to over $4 million in modernization projects associated with repurposing the space for academic requirements. “The whole building was gutted,” he said. “Walls were torn down, wiring redone and the HVAC system was replaced.”
Ikharo also pointed to delays from faculty who were allowed their own input into the redesign of the building. “We wanted to get two colleges with two distinct programs to come up with a vision on how to use the building,” he said. “We had to work with faculty’s timeline to elicit info that is essential to programming.” A situation Trustee Bill Riley called, “not untypical.”
With modernization projects now complete, the building is waiting on faculty and furniture to be moved before it can begin serving at full capacity this summer.
“There is really only two periods we can move faculty, summer and the holiday break,” Jannett Jackson, president of College of Alameda, said. “Trying to move classes while they’re in session is untenable. A lot of work has been done to make sure faculty is happy with the move.”
In total, the acquisition of the building and its renovations has cost the district over $12 million, which according to Ikharo is about the market price for a ready-to-use building of similar size.
“We were excited when we acquired this building. We got the impression people could move in quickly, and expected to be able to use the building immediately,” Trustee President Cy Gullassa said. “To me it would seem there needs to be a rigorous process and thorough analysis of what were purchasing so that trustees are going into it with wide open eyes.”