After 25 years of costly leased facilities, Berkeley’s Vista College appears headed to a home all its own.
The Peralta Community College District trustees voted last week to accept a plan which guarantees a permanent, 145,000 square-foot building to be constructed at 2050 Center Street. The proposed building, which will house Vista’s classrooms, offices, laboratories and student services, is contingent on the passage of a $153.2 million bond issue, which will come before voters in November.
“Everyone’s happy. It’s a really, really great thing,” said Peralta Community College District board member Susan Duncan. “Vista has always been in a sub-standard rental facility. The original bond issue in the 1960s ran out of money when they were building Laney (College), Merritt (College) and the College of Alameda and Vista got stuck in leases.”
An architect, selected by a PCCD board committee, will be announced at the next board meeting, July 25.
“We have $15 million in the bank to start the building and the passage of the bond issue we’re putting forward in November will give us the money we need to put up a first class, state-of-the-art facility,” Duncan said. “It has been the long-time desire of a number of people on the board to have a top quality atmosphere to help best serve the students.”
Presently, Vista maintains lease agreements worth upwards of $800,000 per year with three private property owners in central Berkeley. The proposed building site, purchased this spring by the PCCD, is across the street from the existing structure.
“The practicality of having a permanent building is clear. With such a high leasing cost the current situation isn’t cost effective,” said PCCD public relations director Shirley Figarino. “Basically, the board and the chancellor pledged to make this happen a few years ago and now they’re keeping their commitment.”
The board’s action seems a fitting final chapter in Vista’s longtime quest to have its own campus.
In addition to the main building on 2020 Milvia St., Vista has a science laboratory on 2061 Center St. and several classrooms at 207 Allston Way.
For over 20 years Vista has also had an agreement with UC Berkeley for free classroom space Monday through Thursday nights, the only collaboration of its kind in the state between a community college and a major university.
“At this point in time it’s all riding on the bond. In the measure are funds to pick up the remaining costs for the facility,” said Art Chen, director of facilities for the PCCD. “If the bond passes, we’re going into the ground. I think it’ll be a tremendous contribution.”