A plan to tear down part of Cubberley Community Center to build a new "educational center" for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District is in early discussions between the district and Palo Alto city representatives.
A public study session on the plan will take place Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Palo Alto City Council meeting.
The college district, which currently houses its Middlefield Campus at Cubberley, would construct a "state-of-the-art" educational center along with joint-use community facilities on the city-owned portion of Cubberley, City Manager Frank Benest disclosed this week.
Current tenants of the city-owned parcel would not be displaced but rather housed in the Middlefield Campus buildings when the college vacates them after construction, Benest told the Weekly Friday.
But where tenants would go during construction of the center, before Foothill vacates its campus, has yet to be discussed, he said.
All buildings on the eight acres would be torn down, but the tennis courts and fields would remain, he said.
"Our goals are to maintain community-center functions and playing fields and replace some of these dilapidated facilities," he said.
The city hasn't decided whether to sell or rent, he said. A long-term lease could last up to 25 years, he added.
Foothill district spokesperson Becky Bartindale said the district is in preliminary talks with the city and not in negotiations.
"We're committed to providing better facilities for students who want to go to Foothill in that area," Bartindale said, adding that about 4,000 students take classes at the Middlefield Campus a quarter.
Cubberley is one option, since the community college already offers classes there in approximately 55,000 square feet of space.
"The district would like it to be at Cubberley, but we'll look at anything" that provides the needed space, she added.
The district is currently on a year-to-year lease, she said.
The consideration of Cubberley has been in the works for nearly a year, according to Bartindale. The district's Board of Trustees approved an agreement with tBP/Architecture on March 5, 2007, to begin an assessment process at the Middlefield campus.
On Nov. 5, 2007, the board approved an agreement with tBP to do a feasibility study of the Cubberley site and to evaluate any alternative sites, as needed. tBP was asked to prepare site plans and options for building locations, parking, car and pedestrian access, and conceptual floor plans for a maximum two-story building at Cubberley, she said. The architecture firm was also asked to evaluate any alternative sites identified by the district, including evaluating infrastructure and buildings to prepare for possible property acquisition.
Cubberley was constructed in 1955 as a high school but became a community center when the school was shut down in 1979 due to declining enrollment.
The city has owned the Cubberley land since a 2002 swap with the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), in which the district acquired the Terman Middle School site in exchange.
The parcel is adjacent to the Charleston Shopping Center at the northern end of Cubberley.
The city leases the other 27.45 acres from PAUSD for about $4 million a year, Benest said.
Benest initially told the Weekly the potential price hadn't been discussed, but he later confirmed the $35 million estimate that appeared in a report prepared by him and other city officials.
Presented at a council Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 15, the same day Benest met with a small handful of residents to discuss the Cubberley plan, the report estimated the site's sale could generate $35 million, while a lease could generate $1.8 million per year.
The construction alone would cost the college district $30 to 40 million, funded by the $490.8 million district bond Measure C passed in June 2006, Benest said.
Because bond funds are involved, the Foothill-De Anza district would either have to own the land or have a long-term lease, spokesperson Becky Bartindale said.
The city would have to shoulder some of the costs of building more parking lots and moving tenants from one part of Cubberley to another, but those costs haven't been calculated yet, he said.
Early plans for the 99,500-sqaure-foot center show a two-story building radiating in three wings out from a circular central atrium.
The two-story building would house classrooms and joint-use public facilities including a dance studio, art programming space, child development center and community meeting space, Benest said.
The site-plan layouts are preliminary and subject to change, he said.
Yet what is certain is the school's goal to build energy-efficient structures equipped with modern technology, in contrast to the aging classrooms now used at Cubberley, according to Andy Dunn, vice chancellor of business for the college district.
The project is designed to accommodate a 2 percent enrollment growth over 10 years, he said.
The Middlefield campus currently hosts more than 1,000 full-time students, he said -- noting that figure adds part-time students together to calculate full-time equivalency.
Benest and district representatives met with leaders of nearby neighborhood associations earlier this week to present plans.
The approximately 10 residents at this week's meeting were concerned about traffic and parking problems the facility could generate, resident Jean Wilcox said.
Students taking classes at the new center would come from the Middlefield Campus and farther afield, Dunn said.
Despite concerns, residents mainly approved of the preliminary idea, Wilcox said.
"Given the fact that I'm paying taxes to the Foothill-De Anza college system and the fact that they want to provide facilities right on my doorstep, I feel like I'm getting response for my tax dollars," she said.
If the council approves the plan, the city will hold public meetings to gather community input, Benest said.
The project would take at least two and a half years to complete, including up to nine months for environmental review, he said.
Figures were not immediately available relating to the present square footage occupied by Foothill at Cubberley, or how many additional students might be expected at the new center.
The study session will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, in the council chambers at Palo Alto City Hall.
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