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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Site Selected for South Mountain Community College’s Laveen Campus

After years of preparation and site searching, a location for the South Mountain Community College Laveen Center has finally been selected. Purchase of the new site, which is just south of Southern Avenue at 59th Avenue, will be finalized at the end of this month.

“This is the one (site) that had good access – good potential freeway access – and I think it works well with the surrounding properties,” said Rob Price, director of marketing and public relations at South Mountain Community College. “In terms of our own criteria, we were really looking for access and for something that would afford us the right amount of space at the right price.”

With the rapid rise of land prices throughout the South Mountain area, the cost for the property is much higher than what was originally anticipated when voters passed Proposition 401 in November 2004. The bond initiative signaled the start of nearly $60 million in capital improvements for South Mountain Community College. Due to the added cost for the Laveen property, school officials are now searching for funding to finance the site’s permanent facilities.

“The funding to purchase the land itself ended up eating the majority of the funds we had available for the site, so to take the next step and actually start designing and building the permanent fixtures there, we’re looking a little further down the road,” Price added.

Once construction does begin, the center will be set up as a campus of re-locatables. When enrollment is established, the portable facilities will be replaced with permanent structures – as is the procedure with all new Maricopa Community Colleges. The strategy of mirroring the development of Mesa Community College at Red Mountain, a 100-acre campus located on the northeast corner of Power and McKellips roads, still remains. When complete, the Laveen Center will have 15,000-20,000 square feet of facilities.

School estimates show the projected growth of potential students (age 14-45) in the Laveen area will reach 3,659 by 2010. By 2025, that number is projected to increase by 51 percent to 5,524 students. During that same time, the total resident population is expected to reach 110,887 people.

Because of the uncertainly with funding, Price said there is no definite date for opening the Laveen campus.

Currently, South Mountain Community College offers courses at several locations in Laveen, including Arizona Lutheran Academy, Laveen Elementary School, Vista del Sur Middle School, M.C. Cash Elementary School and Cesar Chavez High School. Late-fall classes start on Oct. 16 and include the following subjects: English, English as a Second Language, Fundamentals of Writing, Introductory Algebra, “Speedy English” and “Speedy Spanish.” Classes are $65 per credit hour, plus a $15 registration fee per semester.

Residents can also suggest topics for future classes by e-mailing ideas to nassim.kashani@smcmail.maricopa.edu.

In addition to the new learning center in Laveen, SMCC is still planning to expand the existing center in Guadalupe by 5,000 square feet and develop a 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot learning center in the area around Ahwatukee. Last summer school officials approached the Gila River Indian Community with the idea of constructing a facility on the reservation, but that proposal was declined.

SMCC’s service area includes the Villages of South Mountain, Laveen and Ahwatukee Foothills, and extends from the Salt River on the north to Pecos Road on the south, and from 48th Street on the east to the Gila River Indian Community border on the west.

As part of the bond approval in 2004, planned improvements on the main campus at 24th Street and Baseline Road include constructing a new 53,000-square-foot library/learning resource center and a 13,500-square-foot science building; remodeling the current library space as classrooms, faculty offices and support space; remodeling the Physical Science Building as math classrooms, faculty offices and support space; expanding the central plant for office space and receiving area 4,000 square feet; completing a loop road through campus; and providing teaching/learning technology.

“The specifics of all of these are subject to the ever-increasing cost of construction and design,” Price said. “So whether they are all going to take the final form as was envisioned a couple of years ago, we don’t know. At this point, nothing is off the table.”

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