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New Valley College center still faces an uncertain timeline

The VACC project has been in under construction since 2016, but there remains questions on when the facility will be completed.

By Gabriel Arizon, Editor-in-Chief

Mirrored windows on the northern side of the Valley Academic and Cultural Center, are in the same modern style of the newer construction at Valley College, Nov. 2, 2020. (Photo By Solomon O. Smith/The Valley Star)

The construction of the Valley Academic and Cultural Center has been ongoing for the past four years with no definitive word on when the building may be completed.

The VACC has been in the works since 2010 when Ehrlich Architects did initial design work for the facility back when it was called by a different name. The Los Angeles Community College District approved the facility six years later with a $78.5 million budget. Originally due to be finished in two years, the building’s completion date was pushed back to 2020 due to a combination of poor planning and heavy rainfall. According to information provided by Maricela Gomez — the communications manager for BuildLACCD — the VACC is forecasted to be finished next fall with academic activities to begin in early 2022. However, Valley College President Barry Gribbons was hesitant to say if the building would be finished by next year.

“The pace [of the construction] has picked up in the last few months,” said Gribbons. “[The construction company] has increased their staffing levels. We will be receiving a revised timeline for the project in the next month or two.”

According to Gribbons, progress on the VACC picked up a few months ago when the company building the project, Pinner Construction, had a change in leadership.

A construction worker softens the dirt for a bull dozer on the north-east corner of the Valley Academic and Cultural Center, Nov. 2, 2020. (Photo by Solomon O. Smith/The Valley Star)

An anonymous source has told the Star that the money being spent on the building is close to $100 million. When asked to confirm, Gribbons affirmed that it was the total budget, but also clarified what was being included.

“If one is looking at the construction budget, that’s one number, but the total budget is another number,” he said. “The reason that I say is there has been … some concern expressed that the budget’s radically increased and I think the misunderstanding is they’re looking at the total budget presented to them where previously they were only looking at the construction piece. So the large increase was just a different definition of the budget.”

According to Gomez, the construction budget is valued at $80 million and the design contract is $5.5 million. The latter includes the development of the schematic design, development documents and construction drawings that were submitted to the Division of the State Architect for review and approval.

Gribbons also stated that there have been change orders to the facility — which result in increased costs — that run the range from $5,000 to $20,000, which he stated is to be expected in a project of this size. There have not been any substantial changes to the design of the building.

The president elaborated that there are contract penalties for Pinner not meeting timelines, but it will be a complex matter to determine what the sources of the delays are, since uncontrollable circumstances such as weather must be taken into account.

A stairway entrance on the south side of the Valley Academic and Cultural Center nears completion at Valley College, Nov. 2, 2020. (Photo By Solomon O. Smith/The Valley Star)

When completed, the two-story, 118,000-square-foot-facility will feature classrooms, study and rehearsal spaces, a newsroom, a radio station, faculty offices, and four separate theaters. It will also include an Outdoor Amphitheater for outdoor performances and concerts. The center will occupy a large space in the northwestern part of campus, near the Music Building and the Art Building.

While construction on the VACC is ongoing, Valley is already making designs for two other buildings. One such facility is called Academic Complex 1, which will be built along Burbank Boulevard. According to the construction projects page on the school website, the complex will consist of a 80,000-square-foot-building, a new car parking and drop off area, underground stormwater tanks and about 165,000 square feet of site development. It will contain spaces for curriculums such as classes such as mathematics, computer science, business, psychology, ethnic studies and emergency services.

The other facility is called Academic Building 2, which would replace the Theater Arts building. It will be the new home of the technology, speech, English, ESL and foreign language departments. While the website states both projects are slated to begin construction in 2023, Gribbons has said they cannot begin until the VACC is finished. As of now, neither project has a budget tied to them.

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