EVERETT — The decision has been made: Everett Community College will cross Broadway when it builds a new Learning Resource Center that will house its library and academic support programs.
Despite resistance from some faculty and students, the college Board of Trustees on Monday night sided with a recommendation of college administrative leaders to relocate the center. The college also plans on moving a replacement for Baker Hall to the east side of the thoroughfare in north Everett. The vote was 4 to 1.
Boardmember Vicki Norris was the lone dissenter.
The issue had been argued off and on since spring.
College leaders, including President David Beyer, wanted the building east of Broadway on land known as College Plaza, and that became part of a master plan proposal. Some faculty, staff and students said it should remain on the main campus. They argued that the resource center should be easily accessible for students and the new location would be well out of their way.
“Everett Community College should not become the first and only college in Washington to put its library and several key learning services on the periphery,” said Mike VanQuickenborne, an EvCC philosophy instructor and union president for the faculty, during public comment Monday night.
The faculty union gave a strongly worded response to the proposed location, which is down a hill and across a five-lane thoroughfare, in a written statement.
“Locating such an essential student resource in an area that adds especially significant burdens to our disabled student population shows a lack of concern for the most vulnerable populations we serve,” the union wrote, “to say nothing of adding to the general inconvenience all students, staff, and faculty will needlessly encounter whenever we want to make use of this facility.”
Students likewise said they were worried about the distance of the proposed location. Student Emmerson Hunter, who conducted a survey on the issue with the guidance of an instructor, said she and many of her peers were concerned about safety, especially when walking in the dark.
In a message to college staff last spring, Beyer addressed enrollment growth on the campus and long-term plans.
College growth has put pressure on Everett’s Northwest neighborhood over the years, which is part of the reason for the eastward movement.
“We continue to explore property acquisition as does WSU to the east and the north,” he wrote. “The congestion on the west side of Broadway into this campus has intensified and will only worsen with regional and college population growth in the next 20 years.”
Beyer said moving the Learning Resource Center east of Broadway won’t resolve congestion issues by itself, “but it will be an intentional and important step in (dispersing) pedestrian and vehicular traffic to the north and east.”
In a memo to the board of trustees, Patrick Sisneros, EvCC vice president of services, said the college “has an important role in the redevelopment of the N. Broadway corridor.”
“… New facilities at College Plaza along with a pedestrian bridge would continue the momentum of this redevelopment in cooperation with the city of Everett, Providence Medical Center and Washington State University.”
Residents of Everett’s Delta Neighborhood, which resides on the east side of Broadway, expressed hope that the new college building would act as a boon for an otherwise underserved population.
“It’s often labeled the wrong side of the tracks,” said Ryan Weber, who lives in the neighborhood with his wife and child.
Mary Fosse, who leads the Delta Neighborhood Association, said the school could act as a beacon for young children. She can see the proposed location for the Learning Resource Center from Hawthorne Elementary, where her son will eventually go to school.
“We want a college district,” she said. “We want our children growing up in our schools to see that opportunity. I want my son in 20 years to see that as a possibility.”
On a different note, the college master plan committee also wanted to create more open and green space on the traditional campus, Sisneros wrote.
Board members talked Monday night about how the center of campus will grow to the east, if not only because that’s the only space the college has to grow.
“It is important to note the campus center will continue to shift toward N. Broadway with the LRC and Baker Hall replacement at College Plaza and the demolition of Monte Cristo Hall and Baker Hall on the upper campus,” Sisneros wrote.
Tom Gaffney, a former member of the board of trustees, talked about the expansion eastward as an inevitability. He recalled talking about building on the other side of Broadway back in 2006, when discussions to purchase the College Plaza property first started.
“It wasn’t if when we would go across Broadway, but when,” he said.