Concept designs for future district headquarters are lackluster, trustee says

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The board of trustees falls silent as Chief Don Adams gives a report on recent police related shootings in the United States during the Building, Grounds and Sites Committee meeting July 19 in Killen. The board congratulated the Alamo Colleges Police Department on its continued success of producing well-trained officers and minimizing criminal activity. Photo by Brandon A. Edwards

The board of trustees falls silent as Chief Don Adams gives a report on recent police related shootings in the United States during the Building, Grounds and Sites Committee meeting July 19 in Killen. The board congratulated the Alamo Colleges Police Department on its continued success of producing well-trained officers and minimizing criminal activity. Photo by Brandon A. Edwards

Feedback by the board will be sent forward to the citizen’s advisory committee.

By Wally Perez

Adam Reed, principal architect at Ford, Powell and Carsons Architects and Planners Inc., presents four concept designs for the new district support operations building during the Building, Grounds and Sites Selection Committee meeting July 19 in Killen. The southern design showcased two four-story buildings with the acequia running through the Playland site. Photo by Wally Perez

Adam Reed, principal architect at Ford, Powell and Carsons Architects and Planners Inc., presents four concept designs for the new district support operations building during the Building, Grounds and Sites Selection Committee meeting July 19 in Killen. The southern design showcased two four-story buildings with the acequia running through the Playland site. Photo by Wally Perez

gperez239@student.alamo.edu

The concept renderings for the district support operations building, which will be at 2222 N. Alamo St., were presented to the board of trustees during the Building, Grounds and Sites Selection Committee meeting July 19.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie told trustees the purpose of the concept designs is to obtain recommendations by the board to move forward to the citizen’s advisory committee and that no decision would be made by the board at this time.

Four designs were presented depicting plans for a northern, southern, and two center-sited concepts.

Adam Reed and John Mize, principal architects at Ford, Powell and Carson Architects and Planners Inc., discussed each of the designs and answered questions and concerns from trustees

Each concept design provided about 600 parking spaces, Reed said.

“Since we were last here in May, we’ve been working diligently with our associated architects to become familiar with the site and develop options in terms of how we could fit the DSO building on the site,” Mize said.

An acequia, part of the Spanish mission irrigation system, runs through the site, creating unique landscaping options, Reed said.

Reed said the designs lacked architectural design at this point in the process.

District 7 trustee Yvonne Katz comments on the parking lot layout in two of the concept designs of the district support operations building during the Building, Grounds and Sites Selection Committee meeting July 19 in Killen. Parking is split to the north and south of the building. Katz said it’s nice to have the lots separated as one big parking lot can be an eye sore. Photo by Wally Perez

District 7 trustee Yvonne Katz comments on the parking lot layout in two of the concept designs of the district support operations building during the Building, Grounds and Sites Selection Committee meeting July 19 in Killen. Parking is split to the north and south of the building. Katz said it’s nice to have the lots separated as one big parking lot can be an eye sore. Photo by Wally Perez

“We’re looking at these as masses and volumes and orientations to look at the performance and cost to see how we can programmatically fit all of these moving parts into these collection of buildings,” Reed said.

According to the approved minute order during the May 17 regular meeting, a contract not exceeding $2.6 million, which was derived as 5.83 percent of the project construction cost of $45 million, was agreed upon with Ford, Powell and Carson.

All of the designs included two or three buildings, which were four to five stories.

Limited VIP parking on the first two floors of the buildings for employees were also implemented in the designs.

Each of the designs requires about 266,000 square feet for the buildings.

District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate voiced concern about contamination of the soil on the site of the old Playland Park, but John Strybos, associate vice chancellor of facilities, assured him that although contaminants were found, they have been taken care of and the site is safe to build.

Strybos said testing of the site was done after it was purchased seven or eight years ago and didn’t remember the cost, but he would find out.

District 7 trustee Yvonne Katz voiced her appreciation for the two-center building concepts because of the parking lots being split up on the north and south sides of the building.

President Robert Vela breaks down “performance after transfer” rates of students who have graduated or transferred from this college to a four-year university at the Student Success Committee meeting July 19 in Killen. Vela emphasized the data presented does not include private institutions. Photo by Brandon A. Edwards

President Robert Vela breaks down “performance after transfer” rates of students who have graduated or transferred from this college to a four-year university at the Student Success Committee meeting July 19 in Killen. Vela emphasized the data presented does not include private institutions. Photo by Brandon A. Edwards

Katz said when there is parking in one location, it detracts from the entire property.

“We know about 450 employees will be moving to this building so there will be a lot of traffic,” Reed said. “We intend to try to break up the parking for employees and visitors to make it easier.”

District 1 trustee Joe Alderete voiced concern over many issues including potential drainage, how much of the property can be developed and sustainable options.

“This should be a recognized icon in this community; this should be the central offices of the Alamo Colleges,” Alderete said. “What I see here is a basic building with whatever you’re doing to it … it doesn’t stand out or pop as an education center, in my personal opinion.

“Generally speaking, I’m not excited with what I’ve seen tonight,” Alderete said.

In an effort to satisfy some of Alderete’s concerns, Mize said they will look into building affordable sustainable features like appropriate shading, the opportunity of roof gardens, or solar opportunities to generate electricity into the project.

“Sustainable features that we can incorporate into the project … we want people to see those, we want people to see that Alamo Colleges is making an effort to be good stewards in the environment,” Mize said.

Leslie said the trustees shouldn’t get too worked up over the concepts, as the purpose of the reveal is to brief the board of what’s been done so far, then forward the item to the citizen’s advisory committee with comments for their approval.

“I’m just trying to figure out how we get something that really presents the value of the Alamo Colleges in the future … we just don’t want another Sheridan office,” Alderete said.

Mize said architects would take the comments made by the board to heart and work hard to address them.

Zárate said although the sustainable options seem nice, there is a budget to stick to.

Strybos restated that the drawings are intended as conceptual without specific details of the buildings.

“These are concepts … to the comments that have been made, it doesn’t show any iconic elements because it’s not supposed to,” Strybos said. “The next versions will as we keep moving down the path.”

The four concept designs for the building can be viewed at https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=39062296.

President Robert Vela gave a performance update for the college during the Student Success Committee meeting.

This included fall enrollment numbers over the last six years, which have taken a dip from about 22,000 in fall 2013 to 20,700 in fall 2015.

Vela said an intentional reduction in the nursing department was made to ensure they were ready for changes in testing and standards for the program, which included increasing and maintaining the Texas Board of Nurses NCLEX-RN pass rate standard from 80 percent to 82 percent.

“We’re starting to scale that back up and I think we’ll end up back to about the 22,000 mark in the next year or two,” Vela said.

In addition to this, the course completion rates have gone up 6.5 percent over the last six years for a current estimate of 89.9 percent completion rate. A 65 percent reduction in high risk courses has also been established with the number of high risk courses falling from 61 in fall 2009 to 21 in fall 2015.

Student performance after they transfer from this college was also a topic of interest during the meeting.

Eighty-two percent of students who transfer from this college acquired a GPA of 2.0 or better their first year at the University of Texas at San Antonio, 78 percent at Texas A&M San Antonio and 76 percent at Texas State University.

“This goes back to our rigor. If the rigor wasn’t there at our colleges, this performance wouldn’t be there,” Vela said.

Alderete said there should be data for students’ full completion at a four-year institute because the number is significant and should be attributed to the Alamo Colleges.

“This would counter the naysayers that are out there who question the rigor and critical thinking of our instructors and our colleges,” Alderete said. “Sometimes this additional information not only arms us as board members who speak at the Coordinating Board, but it also enlightens the community on our true success, which is a student receiving a four year degree.” He referred to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Vela said the data is out there to provide that information and find out which Alamo College students are graduating from four-year institutions and would be able to provide it for the board if needed.

“My colleagues would agree with me that a community college professor is better at teaching than potentially a university professor. Why? Because they’re content specific experts,” Vela said. “We put up any one of our professors along with any four-year professor and they can compete.”

Alderete agreed by saying his daughter, who had previously taken classes at this college, said the courses were tougher at this college than St. Mary’s University.

“My point is: That is not out there. We’re being looked upon as lesser than the four-year institutions and we need to construct the message that we’re equal or better than those institutions when it comes to the first two years of education,” Alderete said.

District 9 trustee Jim Rindfuss added the idea of collecting this data and performance numbers of transfer students and the caliber of instructors at the Alamo Colleges to advertise that students from the Alamo Colleges who transfer to four-year institutions do better than new students.

The trustees agreed and instructed the administration look into it.

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