City College Completion Scheduled for Mid-July

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday April 28, 2006

Construction of the new Berkeley City College in downtown Berkeley is 85 percent complete with a tentative opening date scheduled for mid-July, Peralta Community College District trustees learned this week at their regular meeting.  

At the same meeting, trustees approved an additional $100,000 in overtime costs, as well as another $196,000 in change orders, to SJ Amoroso Construction Company in order to finish the construction project this summer. 

Trustees changed the college name from Vista to Berkeley City College earlier this year. 

Peralta Trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, a frequent critic of Vista construction project change orders in the past, told fellow trustees that while he could “complain here and there about some of the items on the [change order] list, the alternative to completing the building in July isn’t good. We would have to continue paying $150,000 a month in rent” to stay at the college’s present facilities on Milvia “as well as face losing enrollment because we couldn’t accommodate the new students that the new building will allow us to add.” 

Yuen praised Peralta General Services Director Sadiq Ikharo, saying that “I’m fairly satisfied he did an outstanding job in bargaining” over some of the proposed change orders, “in some cases, saving us more than $100,000.”  

Saying that the district is continuing to try to save costs on the $65 million construction project, Chancellor Elihu Harris mentioned the signature open book that graces the front of the new building, joking that “we want everybody to understand that this doesn’t represent an open checkbook, it’s a college textbook.” 

The mid-July projected completion date is more than six months later than the originally-projected December 2005 completion date. And then, while Berkeley City College staff can begin occupying the facilities in July, construction crew members are expected to remain in the building doing cleanup work until late August. 

Both construction and district officials blamed the setback on a 7-month delay in installation of permanent power to the facility, as well as recent rains. 

Amoroso Construction representative Mike Childs told trustees that “the biggest concern right now is completing the atrium,” a towering structure that will dominate the center of the college. 

Childs said that the atrium will be the last portion of the construction completed, adding that “we’re confident that we’ll have the scaffolding down and be ready for business in August.” 

Berkeley City College President Judy Walters said that even uncompleted, the atrium is “awe-inspiring when you stand in the middle of it on the ground floor and look up. Some of our faculty members are calling it a cathedral to education.”