GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY: OC kicks off downtown project

·5 min read

Jun. 29—A packed room of community, city and education leaders celebrated the kickoff and groundbreaking of the Odessa College Downtown Project Tuesday.

The kickoff was held in the Wolfcamp Room of the Odessa Marriott & Conference Center.

The two-phase project will be located at the corner of Fourth and Jackson streets, where the groundbreaking was held.

Phase I will include a large green space, a covered stage, a splash pad, shaded seating areas, two performance canopies, an entryway, splash pad, restrooms and parking for food vendors.

JSA Architects is the project architect.

The OC Board of Trustees approved JC Roberts as the builder for Phase I earlier in June.

Vice President of Administrative Services Ken Zartner said JC Roberts will begin construction in the coming weeks with completion expected in spring 2023.

Phase II will include a 24,000-square-foot academic building with conference rooms, classrooms, "space for learning and working, creating opportunities for students and entrepreneurs to work and to learn," Vice President for Student Services Kim McKay said.

Zartner said $500,000 of Phase I came from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett. This was part of a total of $7 million that was gifted to Odessa College in June 2021.

"A million dollars came from the hotel-motel tax reinvestment from the Eoffs that we spoke about and the rest is coming from our Vision 2030 funds ...," Zartner said.

"You'll probably see things out there in less than two weeks," he added.

They still have to fundraise for Phase II. When it gets built depends on the capital campaign, he said.

Zartner said they started dreaming about this project before COVID.

"That is ongoing currently right now," Zartner said.

He added that OC is looking forward to being part of downtown Odessa.

"We are already talking to the city of Odessa and downtown Odessa leaders about hosting existing downtown events in the area such as the (Firecracker) Fandango. ... We're also talking to Randy Ham with Odessa Arts about hosting Hot Summer Nights next year. ... In addition to existing downtown events, Odessa College plans to have live music events, featuring Odessa College musicians. We'll offer a host of content of classes from our green space, such as exercise and our continuing educational opportunities. We plan to have the area open at designated times throughout the day to give people a place to hang out together, read, study and have fun. We will also have opportunities for the community and organizations to rent the space, so it's going to be a live, popping space; so many different events, so many different opportunities; so many educational opportunities; and that's just Phase I," Zartner said.

McKay said land for the project was donated by the City of Odessa.

"And if that wasn't enough, the City of Odessa and Eofficial Enterprises Inc. allocated $1 million from the city's hotel occupancy tax directly to the project, further supporting and revitalizing downtown Odessa," McKay said.

Marriott co-owner Toby Eoff said he is an alumni of Odessa College.

"... There were many things I didn't know about accounting. ... I literally did go back and take those classes a second time because I knew I what I needed to do. ... To be able to partner now with OC in a project downtown, it's something I never could really envision ... But it's just really a surreal dream for Sondra and I, being able to do something like this ...," Eoff said.

Vice President for Instruction Tramaine Anderson said the Downtown Project will support individuals from every part of the community "to help them pursue and attain their education and career goals."

"And it will also serve as a place where individuals and families and those that call Odessa home ... can come and be exposed to different careers and programs and gain access to work-based learning opportunities. ... We know and we understand that the downtown sector of any American city, and that includes Odessa, is the hub of the economic ecosystem," Anderson said.

"Important to that system is making sure that we have established quality education programs that lead to economic development and access for high-demand careers. So Phase II of the Downtown Project includes an academic building which will be hosted space for collaboration between Odessa College and the community," Anderson said. "The Academic Center will provide guidance for those that are part of the business, industry, education, social and professional services and also our healthcare sectors. This center will allow Odessa College employees and community partners to have a place to present and teach individuals about opportunities that await them ...," Anderson added.

The Academic Center will have a conference room available, business and community labs for local and regional business partners, entrepreneurship, potlucks and makerspaces, Anderson said.

She added that the Academic Center will host Odessa College's bachelor degree programs.

"... We have a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree in automation that has a healthy and growing business partnership and workforce development in our energy industry. Also, we host the ExxonMobil Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science degree in leadership and management and we have an emphasis in entrepreneurship and occupational health and safety. This past year, Odessa College added three new tracks to the leadership and management pathways, and they now include emphases in criminal justice leadership, hospitality management and construction management. And in the spring of 2023 ... Odessa College will launch its third bachelor's degree program, a Bachelor of Applied Science in early childhood education. This will help our community meet a need to support our youngest Odessans to have access to quality education from well prepared teachers," Anderson said.

Odessa College President Gregory Williams said the downtown presence will help show people that OC and University of Texas Permian Basin are not scary places. There is support.

Williams said he is working with City Manager Michael Marrero, and if the council agrees, they could create a running and walking space nearby.

"... So this is going to continue to expand. We're going to do more and more ... and it will continue to come together," Williams said.