OAKHURST – The new $25M Oakhurst Community College Center is quickly taking shape. Late Friday, college officials released an updated project timeline that could have students in classrooms as early as fall of 2022.
According to Darin Soukup, director at the Oakhurst Community College Center, construction is now slated to start late next year — and be completed in the spring of 2022.
“At this point, we’re actually pretty close to being right on schedule,” Soukup said Friday.
The new campus will be located behind the True Value Hardware building and the Mountain Christian Center adjacent to the Madera County Sheriff’s Department substation. The 30-acre development site overlooks a large pond and is framed by sweeping mountain views.
The site was selected, in part, for its access to — and visibility from — Highway 49.
“We had very thorough site selection analysis,” Soukup said. “[The development site] is still part of a wildland urban interface, however the location was determined to be the most defensible in the case of a wildfire.”
To be built in phases as the area’s population grows, Soukup confirmed the new center will operate initially from one 28,000-square-foot building. The campus master plan, according to project architect Paul Halajian, will allow for expansion as enrollment and future funding dictate.
Halajian, principal at Paul Halajian Architects, the Clovis-based firm designing the new center, said this week that his team is “just starting the schematic design phase” of the new campus.
“Right now, we’re determining what the first building will look like and how elements like the parking lot, landscaping and common areas will be laid out,” Halajian said. “We don’t want to go in and level the area. We want to work with the natural terrain. This is not going to look like an urban campus.”
By late spring, college officials plan to host another community meeting to unveil final design renderings.
Halajian’s firm was selected from a pool of pre-qualified applicants and is teaming with Los Angeles-based architectural group Steinberg Hart on the project. While Halajian is the “architect of record,” Steinberg Hart’s Kim Patten is the lead design architect.
Halajian said he partnered with Steinberg Hart because the firm has “more experience master planning a large campus project.”
Halajian has been the campus architect for Fresno State since 2005 and has designed a number of buildings on campus, including the new Physical Therapy and Intercollegiate Athletics Center. The Valley native also designed the new monument at Fresno State commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
When asked at community meetings held in Oakhurst last month and late last year what they would like the new center to look like, Halajian said participants expressed the greatest interest in a “contemporary style.”
“That was the aesthetic that seemed to resonate most with both faculty and community members,” he said. “It’s not going to look like a log cabin. But [the new center] is going to celebrate nature and natural materials.”
The facility will be designed to include community spaces and offer senior activities. “We want it to be an economic engine for eastern Madera County and place for the community to be proud of,” the architect said.
Oakhurst Community College Center is part of the State Center Community College District (SCCCD), a network of area community colleges that includes Fresno City, Madera, Clovis Community and Reedley Colleges.
The new Oakhurst Center was approved by SCCCD trustees after voters OK’d Bond Measure C in 2016. The facility will replace the current Oakhurst Community College Center, which is adjacent to the Oakhurst Library.
About 1,050 students are enrolled in classes this academic year at the downtown campus, which uses portable buildings as classrooms.
“The majority of our students are part-time and tend to be older,” Soukup said. “These students, known as re-entry students, are coming back to school needing to be re-skilled because they are desiring a new career path.”
SCCCD officials paid $1.8 million for the new campus site, leaving $23.2 million to spend on design and construction. Halajian said $17.5M is earmarked for construction costs and $5.5M for permits, fees, testing, furniture and equipment.
When completely up and running, the new center is expected to double student enrollment.
For Halajian, the chance to design such an important project is sure to be a career highlight.
“We are really excited to be part of this,” he said. “The building site is absolutely stunning. It’s the kind of site architects just die to work on.”