College embarks upon skill center, housing projects

Thanks to the support of community partners and its board of directors, Columbia Gorge Community College this spring will embark upon the college’s most significant physical expansion since establishing the Hood River – Indian Creek Campus and redeveloping The Dalles Campus more than a decade ago.

The “Treaty Oak Regional Skills Center” will enable CGCC to offer career-tech training in family-wage skills currently seeing high demand locally and across the Pacific Northwest. Yet the new building will also be flexible enough to accommodate long-term training demands, which are ever-changing as the Columbia Gorge economy continues to diversify.

Along with the skills center, the college will also construct student housing on The Dalles Campus. This meets a longstanding need emphasized through a student survey last year, which found many students living in their vehicles or in temporary shelters, or commuting long distances each day, all because of the shortage of affordable local housing.

In January the college completed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the City of The Dalles and Wasco County allocating $3.5 million in “enterprise zone” funds toward the new career-tech skills training center. These funds, together with the college’s own “full faith and credit” bond obligation and a $7.3 million allocation from the Oregon Legislature, will result in a total of $14.7 million investment.

In allocating the funds, Oregon lawmakers mandated that the project focus on the grades 11-14 transition from high school to college, providing the opportunity for innovative elements in educational programming as well as physical infrastructure. North Wasco County School District is cited by the Legislature as a full partner in this “prototype facility.”

“This project only became possible through the support of the Oregon Legislature, The Dalles City Council and Wasco County Board of Commissioners,” stated Dr. Marta Yera Cronin, president of CGCC. “Their encouragement, and the support of our college board of directors, North Wasco County School District, Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue District, Port of The Dalles, Mid-Columbia Economic Development District and many other partners, truly make this a community project – something that will benefit everyone by allowing the college to train people with the skills needed for family-wage employment.”

The college’s bond — which is not a local tax measure but rather an investor-financed debt secured by the college’s own credit – is $7.475 million. The city and county contribution of $3.5 million will essentially reimburse the college for nearly half this amount upon project completion. Together with the state’s contribution of $7.3 million, this means the college ultimately will be responsible for approximately $3.9 million of the $14.7 million project, all without adding to local property taxes.

Next steps include a conditional use permit from the City of The Dalles, hiring a project manager, and selecting an architect and engineering firm. The college anticipates ground-breaking in 2020 and project completion in 2022.