The next few years should prove productive downtown for Pikes Peak Community College, which is anticipating the launch of a $20 million series of expansion projects that will more than double the size of its center-city campus.
PPCC President Lance Bolton said that the school is currently planning a two-phase expansion of its Downtown Studio Campus at 100 W. Pikes Peak Ave. (just west of Penrose Library), including additions to its current facilities and construction of a large, multi-story structure on newly acquired property across the street.
The purchase of that property — a .77-acre T-shaped tract of land at 22 N. Sierra Madre St. — was finalized March 21 and cost $727,000, according to the El Paso County assessor’s office.
Funding for the real estate transaction was allocated through the Colorado Department of Education’s Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education.
The land sits directly west of the downtown campus and includes the 10,135-square-foot former home of the Gowdy-Printcraft Press, a facility Bolton said will be razed to make way for new development. But before work can begin on that land, the school must address the first phase of the project.
“We have two things going on downtown,” Bolton said. “The first priority has been, and continues to be, an addition to our current downtown campus.”
Plans for the first phase of expansion include the creation of a 3,500-square-foot student commons facility and 4,500-square-foot Black Box Theater for performing arts, which will boost the Downtown Studio Campus to nearly 43,000 square feet of usable space. Both structures will be located between the two existing PPCC buildings and will face westward, across Sierra Madre from the new property.
PPCC has submitted a request to the state Legislature’s Capital Development Committee for $4 million of the estimated $5 million needed to complete phase one. The remaining $1 million will come from the college’s reserve for capital improvements.
“We think that we’ve got a good chance,” Bolton said in reference to state funding. “We should know in the next few months whether we can get it funded.”
The 8,000-square-foot project likely will come more than a year before work begins on the much larger second phase: construction of a 40,000-square-foot building that Bolton said will stand four or five stories high and cost in the ballpark of $15 million. The building likely will house science and computer labs, expanded space for arts programs — including graphic design and visual and performing arts — and will allow the campus to support its growing student population.
Currently, Bolton said, nearly 5,000 students utilize PPCC’s downtown location.
“Our busiest campus is downtown,” Bolton said. “Students can get there by bicycle or on foot … and there are around 40,000 jobs within a square mile of downtown. I think that is one of the reasons that many of our students chose to attend our downtown campus.”
The charge to expand was initiated by the college’s Academic Master Plan and Master Facilities Plan, which called for the addition of more night and weekend classes, an expansion of arts programs, attention to growth opportunities and development of support services to improve student success.
“We are really short on space for much of what we do downtown,” said Bolton, who has been at PPCC since mid-2011.
Timelines for both projects will depend on whether state support is allocated for the first phase of expansion. Bolton said that if funding is appropriated, “we would start right away in July on that construction and have that done in about a year — so July 2015 if things go spectacularly well.”
If not, he said that both projects will be pushed back until the cash comes in. Either way, students can in the meantime take advantage of the large parking lot — with space for 70 to 90 vehicles — that was included in the real estate transaction.
PPCC, which has been in operation for 45 years, offers a variety of both associate degrees and technical certifications and currently enrolls around 22,000 students each year. Along with its main campus at 5675 S. Academy Blvd., PPCC has three locations in the Springs and one in Falcon.