Contra Costa College held a groundbreaking ceremony last week for a $73 million Science Center that features a 55-seat planetarium and rooftop astronomical observation deck.
The 3-story building, set to be completed in fall 2021, will total over 55,000 square feet of space housing the college’s entire science department under one roof, Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, executive vice chancellor of education and technology for the Contra Costa College District, said at the groundbreaking on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Professor John Celesia, chair of the college’s astronomy, computer science, engineering and physics departments, suspects the new science center will win design awards.
The first floor will have expanded biology labs and classrooms, while the second floor will feature two stories of windows through which passersby can watch students working in a bio-tech lab. The building’s third floor will feature brand new labs for chemistry, engineering, physics lab, and a maker space with laser cutters, 3D printers and other tools.
“Then we’re going to have this two-story geodesic-like dome that will enclose on the second floor…it’s going to go up onto the third floor and encase a new planetarium,” Celesia said.
Members of the community, including local schools, will be invited to learn at the new planetarium and rooftop astronomical observation deck, which will feature telescopes “that will let us look close at moon craters…the sun, planets, galaxy and beyond our galaxy,” Celesia said.
“We’re going to have a proper place where they can work together, tutor each other, it’s just going to be amazing,” he said.
The project is being completed in three phases. The current phase is demolition, and will be followed by grading and infrastructure in the second phase and the physical building construction in the third phase.
The new science center will compliment the new college center that opened in the fall of 2016, which includes the General Education Building featuring classrooms and a 201-seat lecture hall, along with a meeting center called Fireside Hall and a Student and Administration Building that houses the culinary arts department and its restaurant, Aqua Terra Grill, a new bookstore, career center and administrative offices. Other campus projects underway include the remodeled Gym Annex Building.
These projects, including the Science Center, were funded by voters-approved bond measures.
“It wouldn’t be happening but for the support from our taxpayers,” said John Marquez, board member for the Contra Costa Community College District.