Weber State Community Outreach Center still on track for construction

Thursday , September 07, 2017 - 5:15 AM

ANNA BURLESON, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — A partially paved lot still stands empty on the corner of Monroe Boulevard and 26th Street in Central Ogden.

Weber State University bought the land in 2015 and has plans to build a Community Outreach Center there to provide higher education to the city’s underserved populations.

Associate Dean of Continuing Education Brian Stecklein said it’s normal for new building projects to take this long and the $5 million building will be finished in the summer of 2018.

The project went out to bid last week and Stecklein said a second round of bidding will take place before shovels are in the ground.

“This is a fairly normal time frame for a building like this for us,” he said. “Once the contractor wins the bid then they’ve got to scale up and get ready to go.”

The design of the building has been altered over the past nine months, something Stecklein also said is normal. The building’s roof, for example, is now slanted rather than flat.

“That’s to be more friendly to the community so it doesn’t look like such an institutionalized building,” he said.

Two buildings had to be demolished on the property after it was purchased, followed by environmental remediation. After initial designs were finished, they also had to go through an approval process with the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management.

The Community Outreach Center will house the Community Education Center, offering ESL and bilingual GED courses in an effort to provide education to those in Central Ogden who face barriers like intergenerational poverty.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011-2015 American Community Survey, Ogden had the second-lowest education rate in Utah with 82 percent of residents older than 25 having at least a high school degree.

The endeavor is being paid for with university funds and donations, the latter of which Stecklein said they’re still accepting. 

Luis Lopez will be the center’s director and said they plan to partner with the Weber State Center for Community Engaged Learning. 

The Ogden Civil Action Network — Ogden CAN — will also be housed there, Lopez said. The group’s goal is to enhance Central Ogden’s housing, health and education.

“We’ll be able to have some great opportunities to enhance some of the things happening already,” he said.

The building will also have an early childhood classroom that will be part of Weber State’s Department of Child and Family Studies and the Melba S. Lehner Children's School.

Child and family studies Chairman Paul Schvaneveldt said offering childcare will increase higher education access for those who traditionally wouldn’t have it, whether it’s because of background, income or language barriers.

The census bureau survey also found 13 percent of Ogden residents were foreign-born.

“Our hope is we would have teachers who are bilingual who would be able to serve the population that would be part of that center,” he said.

Enrollment will be for children ages 2 1/2 to 5 years old. Schvaneveldt said the cost will be on a sliding scale based on income.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 6, the lot remains empty save for dying grass and weeds, a few piles of dirt and concrete. It is surrounded with a fence, part of which is broken. Maintaining the property is Weber State’s responsibility. 

“That’s our job and it needs a little TLC, doesn’t it?” Stecklein said.

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.

To read more about perceptions of poverty and education in Ogden, check out “Ogden’s household income level is lower, poverty is higher. But is it a ghetto?”

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