WCC to get new learning commons, revamped gym


Learning commons

Whatcom Community College is in the beginning phases of planning a new $31 million learning commons. This image and design was created by Schreiber Starling & Lane Architects for the college.


BELLINGHAM - Changes are coming to the Whatcom Community College campus, with extensive gym renovations set to start this summer and a new building on the horizon.

Starting in June after commencement, the college's pavilion building - home to the gym and some offices and classrooms - will close for renovations and a 22,725-square-foot expansion.

The gym project is expected to cost about $13 million, though it just went out to bid this week. The project is being paid for by student fees, voted on by the students, of $6.32 per credit up to the first 15 credits each quarter.

The expansion will add a second floor with an elevated track along with a new fitness center, additional locker room space and two studio classrooms for dance, yoga and other physical education classes. About 6,700 square feet of the building will be remodeled.

As part of the pavilion project, access to the school's parking lot from Kellogg Road will be removed, replaced by a circular drop-off area.

The gym, which hosts Bellingham Slam basketball games, Bellingham Roller Betties bouts and other community activities, will be closed until September 2015, when the project is expected to be complete. College officials are working on finding other venues to host those activities.

The college is in the early stages of planning a new 65,000-square-foot learning commons that is expected to open in fall 2017. Named the Phyllis and Charles Self Learning Commons after local philanthropists who have set up scholarships at the college and local high schools, the building will be located in what is now a field between Cordata Parkway and Kulshan Hall.

The learning commons will be home to the library, study spaces, math and writing centers and tutoring and media services - services that previously had been spread across the campus. As the student population has grown, the college has faced a shortage of space for students to study, President Kathi Hiyane-Brown said. This building will address that need.

"They're sitting on the floor. They're trying to find whatever spaces they can to study by themselves or with other students," Hiyane-Brown said. "We just don't have that space in our buildings or the library."

Construction is expected to start in late summer or fall of 2015. The new building is expected to cost about $31.6 million and will be paid for with state money.

This summer, Baker Hall also will get a renovation to use existing space to expand labs and classrooms for the cybersecurity and computer information systems programs. The renovation is expected to cost about $800,000, though the project hasn't gone out to bid yet.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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