Hundreds of students are descending on the new Riverpoint college campus in Spokane.
Classes started Tuesday in a three-story $17 million building on Trent Avenue near the Spokane River just east of downtown.
The opening is the latest in a decade-long effort to expand higher education in Spokane, and it dovetails with the state’s long-range goal of improving access to advanced degrees.
“We’ll be offering the courses where the students are,” said Alex Cameron, associate dean of business.
Nearly 500 students are expected this winter, and another 500 are anticipated next fall in programs offered by Washington State and Eastern Washington universities.
EWU’s College of Business and Public Administration will set up shop in the new classroom building and teach about 70 percent of its classes there.
Night business classes with 350 to 400 students will move as soon as furniture is delivered and installed. Day classes will begin in the new building next fall.
EWU Dean Elroy McDermott said non-traditional students who have jobs and families will find it more convenient to take classes in Spokane. They won’t have to spend so much time commuting to Cheney.
“This is the first of great things to come,” McDermott said.
The new building joins SIRTI the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute - on the Riverpoint site.
“This building will be humming,” said Cameron.
So far, the new structure is known only as the Phase One Classroom Building. At least two more buildings are planned in the next few years - and even more further in the future.
Naming the new building probably will honor a generous donor, said Dean Bill Gray of WSU-Spokane.
On Tuesday, WSU opened spring semester classes with about 150 students in its Interdisciplinary Design Institute, which offers degrees in architecture, interior design, construction management and landscape architecture.
The new design labs on the second and third floors have glass walls that allow students to look out at surrounding buildings, including Gonzaga University across the river with its new copper-roofed Jundt Art Center and Museum.
“We are teaching architecture in an urban environment where architecture probably ought to be studied,” Gray said.
In the design labs, the overhead duct work, concrete beams and wiring are exposed to remind students of the internal workings of a large building.
Design students previously were taught in crowded laboratories at other sites in Spokane.
“This is 120 percent better,” said Scott Paul, a fifth-year student in construction management. He has his own design cubicle equipped with a computer and Internet access.
The Joint Center for Higher Education, which owns and operates Riverpoint, is working on plans for a second classroom building for the allied health programs of the two universities. A third building for library services and state archives also is being sought.
As university programs expand in Spokane, students will be able to take classes interchangeably at EWU and WSU and earn degrees without leaving the city, Gray said.
The 119,000-square-foot building was designed by Integrus Architecture and was built by Bouten Construction, both of Spokane.
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