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by JOE GIDDENS
The idea for Pima Community College’s Centers of Excellence model was formulated less than three years ago.
On Nov. 14, Pima saw that begin to take physical shape with the ground-breaking for the Downtown Campus’s new $12.5 million Automotive Technology and Innovative Center.
The construction marks the first of several major expansion projects for the college across the district.
The ground-breaking happened on the eve of Gov. Doug Ducey touting the city of Tucson’s tech jobs increasing 90% over the last five years in an op-ed to the Arizona Daily Star.
PCC is aiming to help educate those workers.
“We will also be opening up a number of other centers throughout the upcoming year,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said. “Where we’ll be breaking ground in advanced manufacturing, in aviation technology, and in healthcare, and IT and cyber security.”
The Downtown Campus will have the Center of Excellence for Applied Technology, with education programs for advanced manufacturing, automotive tech and building and construction.
The Automotive Technology and Innovative Center is the first to be constructed with the Advanced Manufacturing Building breaking ground in September 2020 and will be ready for students in the spring of 2022, according to Dean of Applied Technology Greg Wilson.
It will be replacing the current automotive building, which was completed in the ’70s and is expected to open for students in Spring 2021. The stated goals of the building are speed, adaptability to future needs and convergence with community and industry needs, according to Downtown Campus President David Dore.
The automotive program will relocate to the new center, and then many other programs such as welding, mechatronics and computer-aided drafting will move into the future advanced manufacturing building. The west side of the ST building then will become dedicated to building and construction, while the east side of the ST will continue to be classroom space.
The Workforce Development Office will be permanently housed in the ST building. The office was at the Community Campus before its sale and is presently operating out of the District Office on Broadway. It will also be joined by the Small Business Development Center in the east wing of the ST building, according to Dore.
“We will expand our automotive technology program to incorporate electric technology and grow our autonomous vehicle training capacity,” Dore said.
The area was part of the Fortuna Inn, which was purchased last year for $1.35 million. It is one of several purchases by the college, which has been buying up old motel properties around the Stone Avenue and Drachman Street intersection.
The building contract was approved and awarded to Chasse Building Team the night before the ground-breaking by the Pima College Board of Governors. Locally, Chasse also has constructed the Tucson Premium Outlets; Gladden Farms Elementary in Marana; Dove Mountain CSTEM K8 School; and other projects.
“Dr. David Dore led a team who reviewed multiple applications, according to Vice Chancellor Bill Ward at the Nov. 13 board meeting. The committee selected two bidders, the Chasse Building Team and also Lloyd Construction. Those two companies will be bidding for the next building in the Downtown Campus expansion Advanced Manufacturing.
“We probably have more traditional classroom space than we need,” Dore said in a recent phone interview. “So, as we move forward, what we’re really doing is we’re trying to realign the facilities to the needs of today. And particularly we’re putting a lot of investment in our career and technical education areas.”
Pima also has received a new five-year US Department of Education grant for $2.67 million for the Center for Excellence in Hospitality and Tourism at the Desert Vista Campus. Additionally, another Department of Education grant of $1.97 million to boast the Center of Excellence Health Professionals at the West Campus. Both of these grants started at the beginning of last month.