Friday, Oct. 09
NORTH ADAMS -- After three years of persistent lobbying from state legislators and other key governmental officials, the MCLA Center for Science and Innovation is becoming a reality -- the $50 million building was included in the governor's five-year capital plan that was released late Wednesday afternoon.

In addition to being included on the plan, the college will receive $500,000 of the earmarked funds for a design and engineering study in the next few months.

"It's very good news for us, considering that Gov. Deval Patrick removed $1.1 billion in projects from the original bill," state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, said Thursday. "State Sen. Benjamin Downing and I worked very hard to make sure this building was included. For us, it's not just about the college, it's also about training people for the jobs of the future. This science building is going to have a transformative effect on our economy. We can't get it built fast enough."

When completed, the science center will be the first new academic building built on the college's campus in 30 years.

"We're very excited about this -- it's a huge investment in Berkshire County," said James Stakenas, the college's vice president of administration and finance. "When we completed our campus master plan three years ago, it revealed the need for a new science facility. That need was underscored by a team of experts that visited the college and underscored by the enthusiasm of our teaching staff. The enrollment in our science majors is also up by 20 percent."

Six sciences, one building

Initial plans call for the building to house the college's biology, chemistry, environmental science, physics, psychology, math and computer science departments in a single location.

"Currently, those six departments are spread throughout three buildings," Stakenas said. "All of those departments have similar needs for computer lab space, lecture space and presentation space. It also allows for appropriate faculty offices, where these departments will see each other on a daily basis and have conversations that don't really happen across the three buildings."

The building will also have space set aside for local educators.

He said the inclusion of the building in the capital plan not only recognizes a need at the college, but also for the larger community and economy.

"We're very appreciative of the governor for his support," Stakenas said. "Dan Bosley and our entire legislative delegation have been behind us from the start and there at every turn. From my desk, President Mary Grant's work has been nothing less than remarkable in getting this wonderful resource in the capital plan."

Over the last three years, state and federal officials often noted the dedication of Grant, who they say never missed an opportunity to promote the need for a science center at the college.

Bosley said the building's inclusion in the multi-year capital plan ensures the college that funding for the building will remain intact.

"We're locked in," he said. "Now that the plan is certified, we don't need to worry about whether or not the money will be there. We're ensured it will be there next year, and we can get started on this."

Next step: Design team

The next step for the college is to bring a design team on board.

"We expect to be contacted by the Department of Capital Asset Management in the next few weeks," Stakenas said. "The department will put out a request for proposals through the state's designer selection board over the next two to three months."

The design team will put together a study that will identify the building's size, location and estimated budget, he said.

To reach Jennifer Huberdeau:
jhuberdeau@thetranscript.com.