Year in review: Education

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Pikes Peak Community College has ambitious plans to expand its downtown presence.

Pikes Peak Community College has ambitious plans to expand its downtown presence.

Colleges and universities in this region have had a productive year: Some have started, continued or planned major construction projects, while reinforcing their reputations as community leaders and forward-thinking institutions. They’re not letting piecemeal state and federal funding stop them from continuing as great regional assets.

 

December 13

PPCC plans downtown expansion

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.”

 

February 7

UCCS goes boldly into entrepreneurial future

UCCS is embarking on a new venture that could be the start of an entrepreneurial renaissance like no other in the region.

It has joined private citizens to create a nonprofit, the UCCS Development Corp., to launch startup firms, participate in public-private business ventures and attract investors. The newly formed corporation also plays into a growing movement of venture philanthropy — that is, people who want to invest in the university and not just give.

It’s all new ground, says Charlie Sweet, UCCS executive director of strategic planning and initiatives. He’s not exactly sure how this new venture will play out. But UCCS leaders believe that they have to be ready when opportunity knocks.

“As we look at developing new relationships with business, we need to expand the capabilities to engage in those relations,” Sweet said.

Until recent years, universities have relied nearly entirely on the federal government to fund their research. But times have changed. The government has tightened its research spending, and universities now are looking to private industry for research and development partnerships.

The trouble, Sweet said, is that UCCS is subject to limitations on joint ventures.

It couldn’t, for example, hold equity in a firm — even if its professors developed the product or provided the research for the company. And it couldn’t accept investors into its products or research.

“It is very difficult to take advantage of opportunities,” Sweet said about the current way of partnering with business.

But a private nonprofit could escape those limitations and allow UCCS to be part of a profitable business venture.

Last August, Doug Quimby, owner and CEO of La Plata Communities Inc., who also headed the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance through the end of 2012, filed the paperwork to create the UCCS Development Corp. The majority of its board will be private citizens with others being UCCS staff. The corporation will have an operating agreement with UCCS, Sweet said.