A packed house of community, city and education leaders celebrated the launch and grand opening of the Odessa College Downtown project on Tuesday.
The kick-off took place in the Wolfcamp hall of the Odessa Marriott & Conference Center.
The two-phase project will be located at the corner of Fourth and Jackson streets, where the groundbreaking took place.
Phase I will include a large green space, covered stage, wading pool, shaded seating, two performance canopies, entrance, wading pool, restrooms and parking for food vendors.
JSA Architects is the architect of the project.
The OC Board of Directors approved JC Roberts as the constructor for Phase I earlier in June.
Vice President of Administrative Services Ken Zartner said JC Roberts will begin construction in the coming weeks and is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023.
Phase II will include a 24,000 square foot university building with lecture halls, classrooms, “learning and working space, creating opportunities for students and entrepreneurs to work and learn”, said Vice President of Student Services Kim McKay.
Zartner said $500,000 from Phase I came from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett. This was part of a total of $7 million that was donated to Odessa College in June 2021.
“One million dollars comes from the Eoffs hotel-motel tax reinvestment that we talked about and the rest comes from our Vision 2030 funds…,” Zartner said.
“You’ll probably see stuff there in less than two weeks,” he added.
They have yet to fundraise for Phase II. The timing of its construction depends on the fundraising campaign, he said.
Zartner said they started dreaming about this project before COVID.
“It’s ongoing right now,” Zartner said.
He added that OC is happy to be part of downtown Odessa.
“We are already discussing with the City of Odessa and Odessa downtown leaders about organizing existing downtown events in the region, such as the (Firecracker) Fandango. … We’re also talking to Randy Ham from Odessa Arts about hosting Hot Summer Nights next year. … In addition to existing downtown events, Odessa College plans to hold live music events, featuring musicians from Odessa College. We will offer a wealth of course content from our green space, such as exercise and our continuing education opportunities. We plan to open the area at designated times throughout the day to give people a place to meet, read, study and have fun. We will also have opportunities for the community and organizations to rent the space, so it will be a living and popping space; so many different events, so many different opportunities; so many educational opportunities; and this is just Phase I,” Zartner said.
McKay said the land for the project was donated by the city of Odessa.
“And as if that weren’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 was an Odessa College alumnus.
“…There were a lot of things I didn’t know about accounting. …I literally went back and took those classes a second time because I knew what I had to do. … Now being able to partner with OC in a project downtown is something I never really could have imagined … But it’s really a surreal dream for Sondra and me, to be able to do something like this …,” Eoff said.
Instructional Vice President Tramaine Anderson said the downtown project will support individuals from all parts of the community “to help them pursue and achieve their education and career goals.”
“And it will also serve as a place where individuals and families and those who live in Odessa… can come and be exposed to different careers and programs and have access to workplace learning opportunities. … We know and understand that the downtown area of any American city, and that includes Odessa, is the hub of the economic ecosystem,” Anderson said.
“It is important for this system to ensure that we have quality education programs in place that lead to economic development and access to high-demand careers. Thus, Phase II of the downtown project includes an academic building that will be a hosted space for collaboration between Odessa College and the community,” Anderson said. “The University Center will provide guidance to those in business, industry, education, social and professional services as well as our health sectors. This center will allow Odessa College employees and community partners to have a place to introduce and teach individuals about the opportunities that await them…” added Anderson.
The University Center will have a boardroom, business and community labs for local and regional business partners, entrepreneurship, potlucks and creative spaces, Anderson said.
She added that the Academic Center will host bachelor’s degree programs of Odessa College.
“…We have a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science in Automation which has a healthy and growing business partnership and workforce development in our energy industry. Additionally, we host ExxonMobil’s Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science in Leadership and Management and we emphasize entrepreneurship and occupational health and safety. Last year, Odessa College added three new streams to the Leadership and Management pathways, and they now include emphasis on 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 the need to help our younger Odessans have access to quality education from well-prepared teachers,” Anderson said.
Odessa College President Gregory Williams said the presence downtown will help show people that OC and the University of Texas Permian Basin aren’t scary places. There is support.
Williams said he was working with City Manager Michael Marrero, and if council agrees, they could create a running and walking space nearby.
“…So this is going to continue to develop. We’re going to do more and more…and it will continue to come together,” Williams said.