Amid the aging and somewhat shabby circa-1958 buildings on the Everett Community College campus, the new $27 million Whitehorse Hall fairly...

Amid the aging and somewhat shabby circa-1958 buildings on the Everett Community College campus, the new $27 million Whitehorse Hall fairly shouts out its modernity.

Boldly colored and modular in design, the three-story arts and sciences building features spacious art studios, high-tech science labs, outdoor workspaces and walls of glass to expose the inner creativity to curious passersby.

High on one blank interior wall, four rectangular windows silhouette chemistry students in the midst of experiments. Glancing up from the entryway two floors below, a visitor is reminded of a Mondrian painting, although it’s a painting with a post-modern narrative going on within. Whitehorse Hall, which was launched Jan. 3 for winter quarter and will be open for public tours Friday and Saturday, is the college’s bold claim to its future. The building is the first in an ambitious, $150 million expansion plan that over the next decade will see the college more than double in size and dramatically improve its academic facilities.

Students and faculty praise the new building as a quantum leap in quality, one that changes the image of the community college and significantly advances its academic offerings.

“This feels more like a university than a community college,” said student Rogelie Rael, whose journalism classroom in Whitehorse Hall is now equipped with computers for each student and a multimedia station for the teacher.

Expanding Everett CC


Whitehorse Hall is the first project in the college’s plan for growth and expansion through 2013. Planned projects and their estimated costs and completion dates include:

• Early-learning center, $3 million, 2008

Undergraduate education center, $40 million, 2009

Property acquisition and parking, $9 million, 2009

Campus fitness center, $20 million, undetermined

Health-education center, $50 million, 2013

Additionally, the city of Everett and Sound Transit are planning a $3 million transit center near the college’s east entrance.

Source: Everett Community College, city of Everett

The 88,000-square-foot arts and sciences building features studio-art classrooms for drawing, painting and ceramics around the building’s perimeter to capture the natural light. Science labs for chemistry, physics, geology and engineering share the building’s center. Faculty members and programs previously scattered among three buildings are united now under one roof.

“The building is a gem,” said photography instructor Lloyd Weller, who has taught at the college since 1969 and has seen his profession advance from film and darkroom supplies to digital technology and computer-enhanced images. Now, he says, he has a state-of-the-art building to match the advances in his field.

“For a community college to have a building on this level is just amazing,” he said.

A lot more to come

Whitehorse Hall is the first step in the college’s planned 10-year expansion that will run through 2013 and include a $40 million undergraduate education center, a $3 million early-learning-center expansion, a $50 million replacement of Index Quad with a health-education center, and a $20 million campus fitness center. Another $9 million has been budgeted for property acquisition and parking.

The city of Everett and Sound Transit are planning a $3 million transit center directly across from Whitehorse Hall to expand bus service for the college. That project is expected to be completed in 2008.

With Everett CC’s plan to exchange its nine-acre fitness and sports complex for the 17-acre College Plaza Shopping Center on North Broadway, owned by Providence Everett Medical Center, the campus would increase from 26 to 52 acres by 2013, said college Vice President Michael Kerns.

Kerns said that as the college entered into its 10-year expansion in 2003, it wanted buildings that would allow faculty to offer innovative programs in modern facilities. In age, campus buildings average 36 years old, he noted. With the exception of Shuksan Hall, none was built after 1976.

“The age and condition of our facilities holds back instruction,” Kerns said. “The quality of the educational environment is critical to academic success.”

The engineering program is one example. The size of the department had doubled over the past few years because of demand, but the college didn’t have space to add classes and instructors, said Al Friedman, dean of math and sciences.

“We didn’t have a lab. We just threw things together in a back room,” he said. “Now we’ve got the resources to support a proper program.”

The building’s new physics lab changes how students learn, faculty members say. White boards lined like graph paper cover the room’s storage cupboards, which can double as display space for student-generated data. Some scientific measurements feed directly into computers, allowing students to spend more time analyzing results rather than recording them.

Dedication and Open House

The grand opening of Whitehorse Hall will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Everett Community College, 2000 Tower St., Everett. Public tours of the new building will be from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. An open house and self-guided tours are set to run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Web site: www.everettcc.edu/whitehorse.

Traditional college science courses separate labs and lectures. Physics instructor Andrew Vanture said combining the two in one classroom space allows students to move quickly between discussion and experiment and to deepen their understanding of the subject.

“This is a much more effective form of learning,” he said.

What a difference

Many students commented on the contrast between their old digs and the new. Words like “smelly,” “moldy” and “nasty” are a few of the adjectives used to describe classrooms and offices in Glacier, Monte Cristo and Pilchuck halls, the 1958 structures that Whitehorse replaced. Those buildings are slated for demolition, two in March and the other within the year.

Chemistry major Aram Won said the old science labs were dirty and uninviting. The new space is so clean and well-equipped, she said, “I just want to be here.”

Students working for the campus newspaper, The Clipper, said their offices are prominently located in the new building near the journalism, graphic-design and photography classrooms. They said their former space was behind a “random” door in a building labeled “welding and fabrication.”

“This is so much nicer than that busted, nasty, dirty thing they used to call our offices,” said Clipper staff member Kelly Read.

Whitehorse Hall has been seven years in the making. Once preliminary site work and permitting were completed, faculty members began meeting with Seattle-based LMN Architects, which also designed downtown Seattle’s Benaroya Hall and the Everett Events Center. The building is named after Whitehorse Mountain near Darrington.

Over the past four years, college faculty spent more than 400 hours with the architects to share their visions for the building, said Sandra Lepper, a 10-year Everett CC faculty member in the arts.

She said instructors wanted practical spaces and open, “hang-out” areas, with no long “hospital” corridors. They also wanted artists to be able to work in natural light and nonartists to be able to observe the art classrooms.

“You can walk in the building now and see art being done,” Lepper said. “All the time we were over at Glacier [Hall], you never knew there was an art department happening on campus.”

Both the ceramics and sculpture programs have outdoor work spaces. Lepper envisions a range of artists, from woodcarvers to welders, demonstrating their crafts for the public during the year. The building’s interior also features a large open area surrounded by benches for art shows and critiques of student work.

Along the second-floor hallway, art students using four shades of Post-it notes created large portraits of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Jim Carrey. Bulletin-board material along other hallways also will display student work, Lepper said.

Functional, not fancy

While the new building has an airy, spacious feel, college administrators point out that it isn’t opulent. The floors are sealed concrete. The concrete support pillars were left exposed, as were overhead wiring and plumbing. Two big workshop areas have roll-up glass garage doors to accommodate large projects and equipment.

“It’s more airy, brighter,” said photography student Balia Layes, comparing the new studio space to the old.

And the spaciousness has a functional aspect. Ceramics instructor Thom Lee said the old pottery studio was so small that it was difficult to teach students of differing abilities. Now, he said, he can work with three or four different skill levels by arranging groups within the large studio space.

As with engineering, the arts is a growth area for the community college. In six years, art-department enrollment has gone up 66 percent, Lepper said, and the majority of studio-art students are in their 40s and work at other jobs. The college wants to increase its art classes so students can earn an associate of fine arts degree at night.

Faculty members envisioned the union of arts and sciences as creating more collaboration and synergy. Instructors who had to search each other out among the old buildings now work side by side in the new one, and the building is resulting in some new, hybrid classes.

“For the first time, we’re teaching a physics-of-music class,” said Friedman. “And we’ve developed an art-and-chemistry class where they look at pigments and dyes.”

City officials say the planned college expansion, coupled with the Providence Medical Center expansion a few blocks south, will revitalize and redefine north Everett. If Whitehorse Hall is any indication, the campus neighborhood will have a decidedly younger, hipper feel.

Faculty and students say they still can’t quite believe Everett Community College has such an exciting new space.

“It almost feels like a totally different school,” said journalism student Chris Munroe. “I love this building.”

Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or lthompson@seattletimes.com; Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com