Faced with choosing between two different designs for the planned College of the Desert (COD) campus in Palm Springs, the college’s Board of Directors Thursday opted to combine the designs instead. The move will further push out the start of the project nearly two decades in the making.
Driving the news: During a regular meeting Thursday morning, the Board narrowly voted to move forward with a plan proposed by Trustee Joel Kinnamon, former president of the college, that does not include a learning hotel but does include 30,000 square feet for culinary arts instruction.
- The move was approved by a vote of 3-2, with trustees Bea Gonzalez and Ruben Perez voting no, and trustees Bonnie Stefan and Fred Jandt joining Kinnamon in favor.
At issue: Local hospitality industry leaders had backed the learning hotel and other facilities for training managers. College administrators, however, stressed that, given enrollment trends, they needed to scale back plans for the Palm Springs campus.
Looking back: Voters began approving what was to become nearly $1 billion in bond money for the college to use on new campus construction in 2004. In Palm Springs, they were promised a sprawling campus on 118 acres in the north end of town, but those plans shifted to the former Palm Springs Mall site in 2014.
- Since the mall was razed in 2019, there has been little to no activity on the parcel in the city’s center. Following a change in leadership at the college in 2021, accusations, heated public meetings, attack ads, and at least one lawsuit followed.
Next steps: New designs are expected to take months and may still leave half the 27-acre site undeveloped. When and if a second phase will be developed on the remainder of the land remains unclear.
Bottom line: Dean Lavine, owner of Blackbook in The Arenas District, spoke for many on hand Thursday when he urged college officials to think about the needs of students first and politicians second.
- “I think if you guys go for something halfway done, and it isn’t something they can fully learn and grow from, it’s going to cheat them,” he said. ” I have plenty of staff members who are looking for education. Every day we have people who are eager to learn.”