It’s a two-story, 50,000 square foot facility and it’s the newest addition to South Texas College’s Pecan Campus in McAllen. The new West Academic Building was recently unveiled to the public at a special grand opening ceremony. The building holds 22 classrooms, computer labs, an information commons space, faculty offices and student study areas.
“At just 18 years old, the college has expanded rapidly to meet our growing enrollment, but this newest building is a very short-term solution to the need for expanded facilities to accommodate our enrollment growth,” said STC President Shirley A. Reed. “As we celebrate opening this new state-of-the-art facility, we look over 56 portable classroom buildings put in place to accommodate enrollment increases. We are an open access institution and we are here to serve the needs of everyone in our community. With that mission comes a mighty burden. Where do you put all the students who want to pursue a college degree?
“At one time we had classes taking place in laundromats, churches, even outside on the lawn; just wherever we could find space and someone was willing to let us use it,” she continued. “We have certainly come a long way since those days, but now we have students attending college classes in portables right next to this new building. We have done our best to make this new building highly efficient and cost effective. It will be a model for our future construction as we cope with how to do more with less, trying to figure out a way to get rid of those portables and add necessary new buildings at each of our five campuses.”
In order to ensure the new Pecan Campus West Academic Building was highly efficient, the college’s construction team set some high standards for architects and contractors.
“We knew from day one that we had to save money on this building,” explained Gerry Rodriguez, director of facilities planning and construction for STC. “We looked at materials, we looked at space usage, we looked at furniture, security features, just everything, and found ways to use modern methodologies to cut costs. All in all, construction costs of a little more than $6 million or $101 per sq. foot came in below current market values.”
STC Board of Trustees Chair Gary Gurwitz added, “STC is being a good steward of its tax dollars and the construction cost of $101 per sq. foot demonstrates the college’s commitment to ensuring efficiency at every level of its operations.”
Some of the features of the building include high-tech surveillance cameras, glass doors to faculty offices to increase faculty/student interaction, multi-purpose computer lab desks that fold out to make computers hidden or visible for use, as well as smart classroom design.
During the grand opening ceremony, community members toured the facility, learned about its design, but also enjoyed special performances by the college’s new Conjunto Jaguar and Ballet Folklorico. STC’s Visual Arts and Music Department provided an art display, as well as entertainment from its Jazz Ensemble. The Culinary Arts Department showed off its cake decorating skills with a sculpture and free cookie bags for community visitors.
“It was a great event and really showcased how special our STC students, faculty and staff are and I hope community members can see their investment in higher education paying off with the quality of facilities and education we are providing here at the college,” concluded Reed. “STC is truly the community’s college and we want everyone to feel that same pride we do.”