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Higher Education Center on track for fall 2008 classes

The three-story Higher Education Center under construction in downtown Medford is on schedule to open Aug. 1 in time for fall 2008 classes.

The 68,700-square-foot center will serve Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University students in a partnership designed to ease their transition into higher education.

Dave Harris, SOU School of Business dean who will manage academic programs, told the Medford City Council Thursday he believed the center would lead to a better trained work force for the Rogue Valley.

The center will include a 100-seat presentation hall, video conference classroom, science lecture hall and science labs, a seminar room, a business center, computer labs, faculty offices and a meeting room.

Both schools will offer multiple classes at the center, including math, art and biology through RCC and business, psychology and education through SOU, he said.

Harris said the business center will have multiple components, including mentoring programs and opportunities for internships and employment, as well as a small business development center and lecture series.

Councilman Ben Truwe asked whether RCC would continue to use its current buildings.

"RCC is going to be vacating quite a few buildings in that area," said Harris, adding he did not know RCC's plans for the buildings.

Mayor Gary Wheeler asked whether the large rooms would be available to the public, for example, should Medford want to host a League of Oregon Cities meeting.

Harris said the public is welcome to schedule use of the rooms when they're available.

Councilman Jason Anderson asked if there would be students attending classes in both Medford and Ashland.

"We're really coordinating our scheduling to minimize that," Harris said.

He said 1,100 students take courses at the various Medford class locations currently, and he expects that number to increase.

"There is additional room for growth," he said.

Harris did not anticipate added parking needs because many of the classes will be offered evenings and Saturdays.

The building occupies the block bound by Riverside Avenue and Bartlett Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets. The block is the former site of the Miller Motors building, the Oak Merchant store, and a building in which RCC classes were held. Demolition began a year ago and construction began in March.

The project is budgeted to cost $22.2 million and RCC and SOU each must contribute $11.1 million toward it.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency also is putting in sidewalks, street lights and landscaping on Bartlett Street in conjunction with the project.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.

Larry Townsend works on the construction of the Rogue Community College building in downtown Medford on 10/31/2007. Mail Tribune photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch