Last year, Linn-Benton Community College decided it was time to expand its Benton Center campus. For Corvallis students, which comprise 40% of LBCC’s student body, improvements to the local branch have been long overdue. Since most locals must still drive to Albany every day for classes, the biggest changes needed are more classroom space and additional parking.
A discussion between LBCC and the City of Corvallis regarding these changes was made public last June, when LBCC President Greg Hamann noted that the Benton Center was “currently hampered in its ability to serve Corvallis.”
Officials decided the most cost-effective way to expand the Benton Center would be to add 8 to 10 new classrooms, along with 300 parking spaces. Expansion to other locations was considered, but rejected.
LBCC planned to build the new classrooms on the neighboring Washington Park, and to collaborate with Samaritan Health Services at its Avery Square location to expand parking. However, after much debate, the City of Corvallis refused to sell the park. Concerns of nearby residents regarding the impact on their neighborhoods were noted.
Despite the rejection of its initial proposal, LBCC has moved forward and still plans to develop the Benton Center campus and parking. According to Jeff Davis, the Regional Director for the Benton County branch of LBCC, the prospect of moving into Washington Park has been abandoned. “LBCC does not plan to revisit this idea,” Davis said last week.
Instead, he explained, additional classrooms will be built on land that LBCC already owns, with no impact on the park property. Davis anticipates that construction will begin in spring 2016, with the new facility completed by around the fall of 2017. He added that these dates are still ballpark figures “based on a number of factors beyond our control.”
As for increasing the number of available parking spaces at the Benton Center, Davis said that they are considering different options—perhaps building structured parking upon land they already own—though collaboration with Samaritan may still be in order. “We have talked with Samaritan, but we haven’t made any agreements,” he said.
Expansion at the Benton Center would allow Corvallis students to take more required courses without buying gas for the commute to Albany, which would also be an environmental benefit.
Improvements to the Benton Center are also valuable for local high schoolers planning to attend the college. “Emphasizing our presence in each of these communities helps ease the pathway to college,” said Hamann last June.
Drawings of the proposed building expansion are available for public viewing at the Benton Center’s website, www.linnbenton.edu/benton-
By Kiki Genoa