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PCC campus could be a ‘gem’ on 82nd Avenue

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Created on Wednesday, 06 October 2010 17:00 | Written by Steve Law |

College pushes ahead with $39 million Southeast expansion

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT, PCC staff and students review prospective designs that would double the size of the college’s Southeast Center, on Southeast Division Street and 82nd Avenue.

PCC staff and students review prospective designs that would double the 
size of the college’s Southeast Center, on Southeast Division Street and

Southeast 82nd Avenue has long been known as a place to go in Portland to buy a used car, play video lottery games or hire a prostitute.

Portland Community College has other plans for its slice of 82nd Avenue – a full-fledged college campus with up to 20,000 students.

PCC is circulating designs for a $39 million expansion of its Southeast Center at 82nd and Division Street, which opened in 2004 at an abandoned retail center. The project could be a catalyst to improve that section of town – especially if PCC builds two proposed greenways, which it likens to the Park Blocks running through Portland State University.

‘This part of the city needs some institutional landmarks,’ says Kent Duffy, an architect working on the design, while speaking at a recent open house to solicit feedback.

Even though 9,500 people take one or more classes at the Southeast Center, many people drive past without realizing there’s a college there, in part because the academic buildings are shielded by trees and a sea of parking.

‘We’re giving the college a new presence here,’ Duffy says of the expansion plans. ‘Suddenly it will look more visible.’

Flush with money from a 2008 voter-approved bond measure, PCC snapped-up three parcels along Division in the past several months. Those properties are home to Legin Restaurant, the German American Society of Portland and a Kaiser Permanente clinic. All three community fixtures can continue leasing their space for several years from PCC, but eventually will relocate or close.

PCC plans to start the land-use process with city planners in a month, and begin construction by spring of 2012.

Years ago, city planners identified the site, which hosted an Albertsons grocery and Builder’s Square home improvement store, as a potential gateway project for outer Southeast Portland. Then PCC relocated its Southeast Center from a modest building a few blocks south on 82nd and adding landscaping to the former retail center’s vast parking lot.

Now, PCC plans to double the size of its center, moving it closer to its goal of creating the community college’s fourth comprehensive campus, says Craig Kolins, interim Southeast campus president.

As one PCC board member says, it will be a ‘gem on 82nd,’ Kolins notes. ‘Gem’ and ’82nd’ aren’t often used in the same sentence, except perhaps by folks at the new 82nd Avenue pawn shop several blocks to the south.

PCC proposes adding two three-story buildings, one fronting on 82nd – across the street from Taboo Adult Video – and another fronting on Division Street. Those, plus a small addition, will provide space for the Southeast Center’s first library, 20 more classrooms, lab space for chemistry, physics and general science courses, a larger food service and spaces for students to congregate. A day care center is contemplated at the German American Society building.

Under the design being floated to the public, which could change before construction begins, campus buildings would be linked by two green corridors, one parallel to 82nd and one parallel to Division. That would open up new community gathering spaces that could accommodate a farmers market, art shows, and cultural events, such as Chinese New Year festivities, Duffy says.

This corner of Portland is tortuous for pedestrians and bicyclists, and PCC plans to ask the city to consider new signals or crosswalks to provide safer ways to cross Division near 80th Avenue and 82nd Avenue between Division and Mill Street.

‘The goal is to create a more seamless feel into the community,’ Kolins says.



COURTESY OF SRG PARTNERSHIP INC. • A proposed design for the PCC expansion includes two greenways, parallel to 82nd Avenue and Division Street, described as mini versions of the Park Blocks running through Portland State University’s campus. Two proposed three-story buildings close to 82nd and Division would give the campus more connection to the surrounding area.

Enthused neighbors

Southeast Portland has long been an underserved part of town for PCC, Kolins says, and outer southeast is a magnet for immigrants and working-class people seeking affordable housing. By offering students language classes, occupational training and two years of courses to transfer into a four-year university, PCC can help bring a larger segment of Southeast Portland out of poverty, Kolins says.

When the Southeast Center moved to its current location, the 97,000 square feet of buildings marked a doubling in size from its old facility.

‘We filled it up right when we got here,’ Kolins says.

When it opened, though, it was hard to fill an entire college algebra class. Since then, PCC has added a full line of math classes up to calculus. It offers Chinese so students at Franklin and Cleveland high schools can continue their language studies. There’s been a noticeable shift to for-credit classes, as opposed to yoga or other enrichment classes that PCC also offers.

Many students now travel from the Southeast Center to one or two other PCC campuses to get all their needed courses. For example, there’s only one lab space at the center, for biology. The expansion will double the number of major buildings at Southeast Center from two to four, and bring the campus to about 200,000 square feet of space.

‘It will enable them to start their day here and end their day here,’ Kolins says.

Money for the project was included in the $374 million bond approved in 2008.

The expansion won’t bring the Southeast Center up to the level of a comprehensive campus, such as those at Sylvania, Cascade and Rock Creek, Kolins says. That will take another bond measure and more buildings. But PCC has the land to accommodate those buildings.

So far, activists in the local neighborhood association are enthused about PCC’s expansion plans.

‘Most people are happy to see some sort of positive development there,’ says Brian Wong, Montavilla Neighborhood Association chairman.

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