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A large cast of state and local politicians helped break ground on the new science building at MCLA.

MCLA Breaks Ground on Science Center

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The Berkshire delegation deferred their speaking spots to former representative Daniel E. Bosley, an MCLA alum who spent years advocating for the project. Left, Gov. Deval Patrick expressed the importance of higher education to the state's economic recovery.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The many years of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary Grant repeating and repeating the words 'science building' finally paid off Friday when a large cast of state and local officials helped break ground on the new Center for Science and Innovation.

The $40 million building is set to be constructed on Blackinton Street is significant for not only the college but for the state — so much so that Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray picked up shovels to honor the occasion.

"This project is important for MCLA for the reasons most of you here already know but it also important to the region and the commonwealth. We have a strategy  to grow opportunity here in the commonwealth based on education, innovation and infrastructure," Patrick said. "This project strikes on all of those chords. It's an investment in young people and young minds and middle-aged people and middle-aged minds and all sorts of folks who hunger for knowledge, for skills development and enrichment. It is an investment in innovation because it supports in this part of the commonwealth the innovation economy that is booming in other parts of the commonwealth."

The three-story building will offer 65,000 square feet for nine flexible laboratories and research space for biology, environmental science, chemistry, physics, psychology and the Berkshire Environmental Resource Center.

"For us, this is the perfect marriage of what we do well in a facility that will help us educate," Grant said after the ceremony. "This is a great day for MCLA."

The construction is paid through a state bond of $54.4 million, which includes renovation of Bowman Hall. The construction is expected to be completed in 2013. State Secretary of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez jokingly swore that the money is in place for the project.

"After all those eloquent speeches about why this project is so important, I was thinking that I was invited to confirm and swear to God that the money is in place," Gonzalez said. "Some of you may be thinking that the only reason I am doing that is because there is a shovel hovering over the ground and if not, my boss, who is sitting behind me, will fire me on the spot."

Gonzalez said a lot of effort went into working out the project's finances even through the "worst fiscal crisis" the state has ever faced. The state is investing in "responsible ways," he said, that includes focusing on education. Under Patrick the percent of the capital investment budget that is allocated to higher education has grown from 3 percent to 13 percent, he said.

Richard Freeland, commissioner of the Department of Higher Education, said the education system will hold up its end of the bargain with that additional investment.

Each member of the Berkshire legislative delegation was expected to speak about how the project benefits the county as well but together, they deferred their time to former state Rep. Daniel Bosley, who had personally pushed the project for years.

Biology students Jerry Kiahon and Jennifer Jean Baptiste (obscured) said they were excited about the building; Biology Department Chairwoman Ann Billet, right, invited everyone back for the opening.
"I grew up in a single-parent family, raised very poor on the east side of the town of Florida and I would have had a lot of opportunity foreclosed on me if I hadn't gone here. I was able to work my way through college, stay home and live at home because North Adams State College, MCLA, was here," Bosley said. "It's very personal because there are people who are foreclosed to education unless the state steps up. And the state stepped up big time."

The local opportunities that an improved MCLA will bring to the city is not something "any of us can really wrap our heads around," said Mayor Richard Alcombright.

The project was designed by the architectural firm Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture and Engineering. Columbia Construction Co. of Boston will be the contractor.

Project architect Jeremy Oberc said the designed was based on the college's oldest building, Murdock Hall and includes green technology, a greenhouse and a rooftop classroom. The building itself will be an education tool, he said.

Also speaking at the groundbreaking include Secretary of the Executive Office of Education Paul Reville, Division of Capital Asset Management Commissioner Carole Cornelison, Board of Trustee Chairman Stephen Crowe, Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, biology students Jennifer Jean Baptiste and Jerry Kiahon, Biology Department Chairwoman Ann Billetz and Todd Foy, president of the college's student government association.

"What I want to see is all of you back here when the building is open and see us in this building doing what we love," a beaming Billetz said to close the ceremony.

Tags: groundbreaking,   MCLA,   science,   

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