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Cascade celebration launches “New Beginnings” for vibrant campus

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The "New Beginnings" celebration for the completion of Phase I of bond improvements at Cascade Campus ended with a bang, and a room full of paper streamers.

The “New Beginnings” celebration for the completion of Phase I of bond improvements at Cascade Campus ended with a bang, and a room full of paper streamers.

January 21, 2015

There were lights, there were cameras, and there was action.

On Jan. 20, PCC’s Cascade Campus and surrounding community gathered to celebrate the completion of the first phase of improvements funded by the 2008 voter-approved bond measure. The construction of two new buildings and a plaza, plus an underground parking garage, have dramatically transformed the campus, as well as helped revitalize the Killingsworth neighborhood’s historic commercial area. And for students, faculty, staff and neighbors who attended the celebration, the theme of the event, “New Beginnings,” perfectly captured the spirit of the day.

Outside on the plaza between the new Student Union and Cascade Hall, the theme, college name and logo danced in lights that swept across the walls and windows of the new buildings, illuminating their clean, modern lines and highlighting the inviting outdoor space that links the two structures and draws the community together.

Students volunteers led tours of the new buildings.

Students, faculty, staff, administrators, neighbors and elected officials roamed and explored, while several local musicians — and a Zumba flash mob — set a joyful tone from various locations throughout the buildings. Visitors who came hungry had a choice of a range of savory and sweet foods freshly prepared in the dining services’ new facilities in Student Union.

Up on the third floor, the Women’s Resource CenterMulticultural Center, and the Office of International Education all opened their doors and offered tours of their new offices. This marks the first time at Cascade Campus that the three resource centers have been brought together under one roof. The Associated Students of Portland Community College, which was previously housed in cramped spaces in the basement of the old union building, also hosted visitors at its new office on the second floor.

For Staci White, student body president, the new Student Union building “clearly shows PCCs commitment to students and demonstrates PCCs understanding and support of all that our student leadership programs offer.”

“All of the student leadership spaces are well designed, functional and beautiful, too. We have room to grow our programs and really develop a comprehensive student life on campus. The extra space for students will create a better college experience here at Cascade,” said White.

Across the plaza, the new academic building, Cascade Hall, was also open for visitors. In addition to faculty workspace and 14 classrooms, the building houses the Teaching Learning Center, the Center for Careers in Education, the Portland Teachers Program, and the Albina Head Start childcare facility.

Although the childcare center, which is operated by Albina Head Start, was not open for tours, art specially made by the children for the event decorated the walls outside the facility.

PCC is investing nearly $58 million from the capital bond to expand and upgrade the 23,000-student Cascade Campus, which has been open since 1971 and is centrally located in urban northeast Portland.

Most of the “New Beginnings” activity took place in the two new buildings and plaza, but the underground parking facility is also a key feature in the Phase I improvements. It’s the first structure of its kind to be built on any PCC campus, and is a major part of the college’s commitment to the neighbors to reduce college-related parking on local streets.

“Land is somewhat limited and we had a lot of new space we wanted to add to the campus,” said Rebecca Ocken, bond project manager for Cascade Campus. “Finding a way to provide sufficient parking without expanding into the neighborhood and making a decision to build underground parking was a milestone in our design process.”

PCC President Jeremy Brown

PCC President Jeremy Brown calls the bond improvements a new era for Cascade Campus, and PCC.

At sunset, the focus of the celebration moved to the second floor lounge in the Student Union to formally kick off the completion of Phase I bond work with a live band, food and sparkling cider. Attending were several key members of PCC and the community, including College President Jeremy Brown, Campus President Karin Edwards, Student Body President Staci White, state Rep. Lew Frederick (District 43), state Sen. Chip Shields (District 22). Also present were Humboldt Neighborhood Association chairman Paul Anthony and  members of the College’s Board of Directors.

“PCC has transformed from being the adult education program for Portland Public Schools back in 1961 to what it is today, the largest post-secondary institution in the state of Oregon, serving approximately 90,000 students,” said Brown.

“The work we do at PCC today is at the heart of our region’s success tomorrow. Where we’re standing right now in our new Student Union, and the buildings and campus that surround us, illustrate PCC’s ongoing commitment to excellence in education by way of the services and opportunities that we offer. Furthermore, the College’s evolution showcases the momentum it has maintained and increased over the years thanks to the support of you and the greater community.”

Board member Kali Thorne Ladd highlighted the Cascade childcare facility, saying that it is essential to ensuring the success of young parents. “What’s wonderful about this campus space is that it’s not only about helping our adult learners, but our youngest learners as well. The research is indisputable: Education teaching programs and updated equipment and facilities supporting the learners who have young children is key to ensuring that we change the course of history and impact our community in tangible ways.”

Paul Anthony focused on the productive relationship that the bond program and the College have built with the surrounding neighborhoods. “The guiding principles that were developed early on by the bond advisory committee, the College and the neighborhood community led to Cascade including the neighborhood in its planning process in a truly collaborative and inclusive way. The most dramatic evidence of that collaboration is the underground parking garage underneath us,” he said.

Community members joined in the festivities.

Community members joined in the festivities.

Although Phase I is newly completed, there are signs that the improvements are already having an impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

“Over these last years the Cascade Campus has built invaluable partnerships with the local community, the neighborhood, its high schools, area churches, neighborhood businesses, with the city bureaus and with Multnomah County. Together we have created unparalleled opportunities for Portland students of all ages, and together we have made this neighborhood and its students safer than they have been in many years,” said Anthony.

PCC Cascade is now looking ahead to work still to be done. Phase II, which includes the remodeling of the Library and the Student Services Building, is scheduled to start in summer 2015.

For more on the new Student Union and Cascade Hall, the campus resource centers, Albina Head Start childcare center, the underground parking garage, and the new improvements coming in Phase II, see our related stories.

PCC’s 2008 voter-approved $374 million bond program is increasing opportunities for residents to access quality, affordable higher education close to where they live and work. Additional classrooms, updated equipment and technology, and advanced workforce training programs are helping to pave the way for future employment options. For more information, visit