“Big deal” construction opens up educational opportunities from area college

Published 12:16 am Friday, February 9, 2024

ORANGE — This is a “big deal.”

The phrase was repeated multiple times this week in Downtown Orange as construction, education and community leaders gathered to celebrate progress on Lamar State College Orange’s largest project.

“What I’m really excited about is our faculty, staff and, most assuredly, our students will have a state-of-the art building to go to college in that is as fine as you will find anywhere in the country,” said Dr. Thomas Johnson.

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The college president was touting construction of a 55,000-square-feet Academic Building.

He thanked the Texas legislature for allocating the money necessary for the project.

“This was last session that we were able to get it, and we were able to move very quickly since we already owned the land to make this happen,” Johnson said.

“If y’all remember, there used to be a bank there. This dwarfs what that used to be. It’s going to look so nice.”

Following his remarks, Johnson noted to those in attendance that there were lots of Sharpies on hand for community members to sign a cross beam for a Topping Off Ceremony, celebrating the next phase of construction.

“You can sign your name and be part of history, too,” he said. “It is about our community and the revitalization of Downtown Orange and what this means to our little segment of the world in Southeast Texas.”

Campus Need

New and bigger classrooms are certainly going to be utilized by Lamar State College Orange, which is coming off record attendance numbers in the Fall of 2023 and again in the Spring of 2024.

The school’s unofficial (exact numbers before 2010 are not available) previous Spring enrollment record was 2,527 students in 2011.

The Spring enrollment in 2023 was 2,330 students.

This year it is standing at a robust 2,925 students.

The numbers are especially strong for the college coming off a record-breaking Fall of 2023 that saw Lamar State College Orange surpass 3,000 students for the first time.

Administrators point to Fall of 2023’s student enrollment, as well as degrees and certificates awarded as all-time highs.

As a largely commuter college that does not offer dormitories, the school generally draws from a tight radius of students, but is seeing boosts in students from East Texas and Southwest Louisiana, as well as participants in online-only classes that attract students from across the state.

Construction

Roberto Barrera was happy to take the microphone Wednesday morning in Downtown Orange, not to tout his employer, Durotech, but to thank the entire team constructing the campus building.

“This has been a special one for us,” the assistant superintendent for Durotech said. “Once completed, this building will provide brand new science laboratories and classrooms that the university needs to continue its pursuit to provide countless educational opportunities for everyone in the community. It’s a big deal to us.”

Durotech serves as the project’s general contractor, overseeing all the construction progress and oversight of the building.

It was in April of 2023 that the Academic Building construction site celebrated a ground breaking.

The stakeholders returned for a Community Steel Beam Signing and Topping Off Ceremony, celebrating the next phase of construction.

Barrera took the opportunity this week to give a special thank you to Ironman, which is the team erecting the steel and “putting in countless hours to keep the job moving forward. And another thank you to Triangle Civil Services, our concrete subcontractor, for pushing the job and keeping us on track.”

Barrera said Durotech is fortunate to have a team, support staff and talented crew, including “all the plumbers, electricians and other trades working along side with us, putting in countless hours day in and day out. It’s a team effort, rain or shine, even in the Texas heat. They help set the standard and tone for quality work, helping us maintain a safe working environment and going above and beyond the standards.”

He also thanked the design team at PBK Architects, Inc. and the personnel with Hill International for their support and team approach.

Barrera told Orange Newsmedia well more than 300 people would ultimately contribute to the building’s construction.

Features

Once completed, the first-floor plan includes administrative office suites, anatomy and physiology laboratories, two classrooms, a large classroom with an operable partition, a computer laboratory, flexible laboratories and preparation spaces and building support spaces.

The second floor includes additional classrooms and computer laboratories, geology, microbiology, biology, physics and chemistry laboratories with associated preparation rooms, faculty resource areas, the Information Technology Services department suite, building support spaces and a medical privacy room.

Both floors will feature large student gathering and lobby spaces, as well as men’s and women’s restrooms. The front lobby space will be viewable via the second floor from an open concept mezzanine.