Nearly two years after voters approved Measure J, Bakersfield College has started construction work on some projects paid for by the bond.

Work has been going on at the college’s parking lots for the past couple of months, replacing asphalt, making repairs and bringing them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Four lots have already been completed and work is expected to continue on the rest of them through mid-September.

This is just the first phase, however. By the 2020-21 school year, students should also have a new 800-stall parking lot at the northwest corner of the campus. In total, about $26 million is going toward parking.

“I think it’ll address parking needs on campus,” said Bill Potter, director of maintenance and operations for the college. “On any given day, we have available parking stalls on campus, but many of them are not conveniently located. By having these new stalls in a more central location, that will be more convenient to students.”

Besides construction work, there have been a few additional milestones relating to Measure J. During the Kern Community College District’s board meeting on Thursday, the board approved all of the funding projects that will be part of Measure J, with more than $300 million going to BC for projects through the 2023-24 school year.

The total approved for all projects in the district is $466 million, according to district documents.

The board also authorized the district to enter into a $625,000 agreement with Interior Demolition Inc. for the demolition of existing buildings for the new Veterans Resource Center and the administration, bookstore and conference center building by the end of the year.

The veterans center is the first major building project, with construction expected to begin in the fall, with an estimated opening in 2019. The ABC building is set to break ground in December but isn’t expected to be ready until 2020.

Other buildings that will be constructed over time include a science and engineering building, a new gym and a welcome center.

“This is the official getting-underway,” trustee Bill Thomas said of the two approved motions. “We’re beginning the reconstruction of Bakersfield College. If (the college) was a ship, I would have broken a bottle of champagne on it.”

While students attending the college will likely appreciate all the new buildings, there’s going to be frustration along the way. Just with the parking situation alone, summer school students as well as some faculty are relegated to only a few parking lots on campus as work continues on some of the lots.

The main visitor parking lot also is currently closed.

In the fall and beyond, Potter said, there will be more upheaval, as students and faculty will have to be relocated to existing buildings or nonpermanent structures — called swing spaces — so demolition and construction can take place.

“These changes are going to affect nearly 70 percent of the area of the campus, so just about everyone will be impacted,” he said. “But we can’t just tear up every building at the same time. A lot of planning has to go into it to make sure the campus can stay open and can provide services to students.”

Potter said the work is going to be very disruptive, with the campus in a state of upheaval over the next five years or so, but he believes it will be worth it in the end.

“It’s going to be dusty, it’s going to be loud,” he said. “We are going to disrupt a lot of the normal activities on campus, but in the end we’ll have a state-of-the-art campus here.”

Thomas said the campus is in great need of upgrades as many of the buildings haven’t been changed in more than 60 years.

“The place hasn’t changed much since 1955,” he said. “These projects are so fundamentally important to the continued educational needs for this city.”

Potter said the past couple of years have been challenging in trying to make sure everything is ready to begin construction on the projects.

“It’s like putting a puzzle together,” he said. “It’s been great knowing that the changes we’re making now are going to change the way students are educated for the next 50-60 years, knowing these decisions we make will have a difference in students’ lives. We have to do this right.”

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 661-395-7368. Follow him on Twitter: @JLuiz_TBC.

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