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Griffin Center marks end of major Prop. R-funded construction projects

February 5, 2012 (El Cajon) – After 18 months of remodeling and construction, the Grossmont College student center has reopened, instantly becoming a lively hub of activity. And, no wonder. With meeting rooms for student groups, ample comfortable seating for dining,  lounging  or study, easy access to a career  center and other student services, as well as  a 10-foot screen  in the lobby for watching movies, four food stations, and a mini-market, a transformation has taken place to rival any extreme makeover on reality TV.

Stephen Harvey/Grossmont College photographer
Behind the palm trees, a tower housing the elevator shaft is a prominent architectural feature of Grossmont College’s remodeled student center. It is topped by a glowing, green light which, when illuminated, is visible from the highway.

The revamped 46,734-square-foot facility – Griffin Center as it is now called – involved  renovation of about 27,000 square feet of the existing building and the expansion of nearly 20,000 square feet, including upgrades to meet current accessibility and code requirements.

A partial second story has added a welcoming quiet study area along an indoor balcony overlooking the busy scene below. Seating is available in three indoor and two outdoor dining areas, where students can partake in the four types of fare: oven-baked pizza, Mexican, grilled dishes and healthy salads and sandwiches.

The center also houses the offices and work areas of the Associated Students, the culinary arts program, student health  services, Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) for low-income  students, the career center and job placement, a club room for student organizations, and Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS).

Stephen Harvey/Grossmont College photographer
High ceilings and ample natural lighting lend an airy and spacious feel to Grossmont College’s remodeled student center, which includes four food stations, including Griffin Grill. 

A large conference room  has multiple uses: Governing Board meetings, conferences and a gathering spot for groups of all sizes, thanks to rollaway walls. Designed by Architects Mosher Drew, the remodeled building is part of a $36.2 million, two-building project that also updated and expanded an aging student and administrative services building completed in late December. The two buildings, which were built using sustainable materials and energy-conservation measures, are the first LEED-certified projects in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a rating system for the design, construction and operation of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods.

The project, which broke ground in summer 2010, is the last major facility to be funded primarily by Proposition R, the $207 million facilities bond measure approved by local voters in 2002 in response to major overcrowding and outdated buildings at both Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges. Earmarked student fees and other local funds also helped fund the construction of Griffin Center, named after the college mascot.

From both inside and out, architectural features have been added to lend the student center a sense of space and volume: the high ceilings, an illuminated tower visible from the freeway, 25-foot tall Phoenix palm trees, a “floating,” cantilevered staircase along the building’s exterior, and a center promenade providing an inviting path through the interior.

“I like it because it’s created a hub,” said student body president Cheryl-Anne Phillips. “Everything is here that students could want: food, multiple lounge areas, plus access to student activities and services. And the colors are great and festive, and very homey.”

Jane Nolan, DSPS coordinator, marveled at how much the remodeling has improved the work space for her department.

“What we really love is that every single room is accessible for students with disabilities,” she said. “Students in wheelchairs can come in and don’t have to bang into the walls.

“And we now have a group testing room with 11 stations and seven individual testing rooms for students who need proctors or scribes because of their disability,” Nolan said.” In our old office, counselors would have to give up their offices anytime there was a need for individualized testing. It was terrible. Scheduling finals was a nightmare.”

College President Sunita “Sunny” Cooke said the student center has brought a sense of community to the campus. “It’s amazing the way this facility has brought everyone together, from every corner of the campus,” she said. “It is a wonderful way for people to gather in quiet or active, comfortable spaces, to share their day and experiences and to learn from one another.”

Bill Garrett, president of the district Board of Trustees, called Griffin Center “a fitting end“ to Proposition R’s transformation of Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.
“The district still has unmet facility needs, given the age of our campuses, but we are so grateful for the public support as we work toward upgrading our two campuses to best meet the needs of East County.” he said.

An official dedication ceremony is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April14, for both the administration and student services complex and Griffin Center. The ceremony will be held as part of Grossmont College’s community open house celebrating the college’s 50th anniversary.

For more information about Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges, go to


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