Inside SMC's ongoing construction: The sites, the plans, the pit

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For the average student at Santa Monica College who traverses the grounds from south to north, the landscape is full of the growing, changing landscapes of construction sites in motion.

One trip across the campus forces students to walk around a shiny new building whose courtyard is not yet complete, the beginnings of a new gym and, upon arrival on Pico Blvd., the long maligned once and future Student Services building or as most students call it, “The Pit.”

Yet, the pit still sits, empty.

Currently, every Santa Monica College campus, with the exception of the Bundy satellite campus, have continuing construction projects.

The pit that sits at the corner of 17th and Pico should have graduated by now. It has sat, lonely and vacant since it was first dug in 2009. By now it should have transferred, graduated from a four year institution and should now be out looking for gainful employment.

Yet, the pit still sits, empty.

The future Student Services Building, originally funded by Bond Measure U, is supposed to house offices for student service personnel, lecture halls and 500 places of underground parking.

Once a parking lot, the ivy-walled hole has sat untouched since the ground was broken on the expectation that the environmental impact reports would be positive, the California Division of the State Architect (DSA) would approve these plans and the Trustees would then approve the funding.

The problems began when the Los Angeles office of the DSA failed to respond to the plans sent by the Santa Monica Community College District in 2010. Upon discovery of the failure, the review of the Student Services building, as well as future buildings submitted for review by the SMCCD, were sent to the San Diego DSA office.

There, the review found that there was not enough structural support to hold the award winning postmodern-brutalist design by Steinberg Architects.

However, Steinberg Architects submitted the new proposal and underestimated the cost of the building by 25 percent, they were thereafter fired.

In their December 10, 2013 meeting, the Trustees were presented with preliminary renderings by Morris Architects that were reminiscent of the Shore Hotel on the beach front and feature a porte-cochère off of Pico Blvd.

The most recent designs, which were were delivered to the board on July 1,  simplified the postmodern steel and glass design and appears to have removed the porte-cochère.

The legendary hole, though the unfortunate star, is not the only major piece of construction on the main campus.

On the Pearl Street side of campus, the Media Center extension to the library arose in November, 2012.

Though originally scheduled to open after the spring semester, the center, which will house the information technology, distance education and telecommunications departments was not completed until July of this year.

Failure to include a button to close a retractable a chain link door further contributed to delays.

However, by the end of the summer session, the building was all but ready for its tenants to move in. Except that it did not have a working elevator. Those who had to lift heavy objects up to the upper levels made use of a scissor lift.

According to academic computing instructional specialist and co-chair of the District Planning and Advisory Council Lee Peterson, the still non-functioning elevator has been a source of consternation and confusion between administration and the contractor, LPI, inc.

“Construction is always a pain, always. However, this was a very unpleasant move,” Peterson said. “No one who works for SMC was happy.”

The next major project for the main campus will be the renovation to the Health, PE and Dance buildings.

The proposed 63,500 square foot building, three story building, designed by Gensler Architects, will provide new athletic locker rooms, dance studios, a fitness center and a rock wall.

Along with the new amenities, the building will become the hub of the campus air conditioning system and will house various infrastructure systems. Portions of the adjacent Pavilion will be renovated as well.

Students will not feel the effects of this project this semester, as the gym and locker rooms will remain open through the duration of the semester while temporary locker rooms are being constructed. Staff lot 3A will be permanently closed and additional staff parking can be found on the lower level of Structure 3.

The project is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2016

Construction continues at the Academy of Entertainment Technology (AET) Campus 1660 Stewart Street, which will be the home of KCRW and The Corsair.

As of September 12, the concrete for the second level of the six level, 450 space parking lot was poured and the foundation for the KCRW building is complete.

In addition to being the future home of KCRW and The Corsair, the AET campus will expand the original AET building 19,419 square feet containing additional classroom and office space.

The project is scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2016.

Construction on the Performing Arts Center’s East Wing began July 14 and will replace the eastern portion of the Madison Building, originally built in the 1930’s.

The design, led by architect Andrea Cohen Gehring for DLR Group, compliments the original Renzo Zecchetto Architects design of The Broad Stage. The building will offer a 165 seat music hall that can be converted into a partially outdoor venue as well as rehearsal space.

To access the main building of the PAC, students can enter from the Broad Stage parking lot or from 11th Street. All facilities at the site, including the Broad Stage and the Art Gallery, will remain open during construction.

For those who would prefer to go to classes even closer to the beach, the college is in talks with the City of Malibu to build a satellite campus just across Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu Point.

The proposed campus, located next to the West Branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court and the Malibu library, would have 5 classrooms, a lecture hall and office space as well as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s substation.

The plans, designed by the Quatro Design Group, are currently under consideration with DSA and the City of Malibu planning department. According to Malibu Senior Planner Bonnie Betts, the college filed paperwork to gain height exemptions for the building and it’s accompanying communications tower this week.

Construction will continue to be apart of SMC community life as new projects are developed, current projects are completed, and old projects remain on hold until further notice.