The exterior of the U building on Monday, April 6. (Kristen Luna/Courier)
The exterior of the U building on Monday, April 6. (Kristen Luna/Courier)

The furniture and other articles seen outside of the U Building over the last few weeks is not a sign of the imminent demolition of the building that was deemed structurally unsound back in 2012 but rather part of an effort to use it for temporary storage of salvaged items from other projects.

Reuben Smith, executive director of facilities services, said that the school is currently storing salvaged items from other renovation projects across campus in the first floor of the U Building until a salvage company can come pick them up. In addition, the furniture still left in good condition in the U Building is being sorted and put to use.

“We’re trying to repurpose as much furniture as we possibly can,” said Smith. “With the U Building also being offline, rather than buying furniture and remodeling offices, we’re actually taking furniture from there and repurposing it to save the district money.”

In September of last year, school officials believed they’d be receiving funding from the state that was originally expected to be distributed in 2017. That funding never arrived.

“We actually never received that money from the state,” said Smith. “That was a mistake, because when we submitted our final project proposal and it was approved by the Chancellor’s Office, the funding was not available to us until 2017.”

Joe Simoneschi, executive director of business services at PCC, said that while he anticipates funding in the future, first the state needs to raise funding by passing a bond. Even then, we may still need to wait in line for funds.

“It is our understanding that the Board of Governor’s supports our need,” said Simoneschi. “However, there is no time table for an anticipated award of State funds. In the event the State passes a successful bond, funding will be distributed based on the priority list established by the Chancellor’s Office.”

While the state-approved $54.5 million construction project may be at a standstill, Smith said he’s trying to find other solutions to at least tear down the building and utilize the space—even if it means replacing it with temporary modular structures.

One proposal is to have the school district front the money for the demolition of the U Building, which he estimates could cost between $2 and $3.5 million, with the hope of being reimbursed by the state in the future.

“It all depends on what we’re going to do,” said Smith. “It could be $2 million, it could be $3.5 million if you’re going to go straight into construction we could repurpose the site for two to three years or so, so that’s kind of why we’re kind of up in the air on it.”

Simoneschi said that any plan to demolish the vacant building or to construct a new one would likely take years.

“The district is currently working on a Centennial Facilities Master Plan (CFMP), and we are reviewing options related to the U Building,” said Simoneschi. “However, that process will take a number of years and may not be the best approach when the State funding may come in sooner than the CFMP.”

A proposed California Public Education Facilities Bond Initiative was approved this year for circulation to contend for the 2016 ballot. The measure would allow the state to sell $9 billion in general obligation bonds—$2 billion of which would be allocated to community colleges—to fund K-12 and community college facilities.

The measure must collect voter signatures in 150 days amounting to at least 5 percent of the number of votes cast for governor in the last election to be eligible for the 2016 ballot.

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