Dignitaries participate in the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Dignitaries participate in the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Robert Eliason.

The morning was overcast when local officials and residents gathered at the site of Gavilan College’s new San Benito campus on June 16, but the atmosphere was all sunshine and smiles as the project finally broke ground and construction was cleared to begin.

“I’m so excited that we are finally ready to build,” Hollister Mayor Mia Casey told BenitoLink. “The future is so bright for the students in our community and for our kids and grandkids who will be able to go from high school to college right here in town.”

Gavilan Superintendent Pedro Avila told BenitoLink that he saw the groundbreaking as a commitment to improving access to education in the county, noting that the college’s Gilroy campus is attended by approximately 2,000 students from Hollister.

“We are hoping many of those students can stay here,” he said. “And it gives students who have thought about going to a different college a chance to stay here and take advantage of the new campus. And it should improve college-going rates for this community.”

Attorney Elvira Zaragoza Robinson was on the Gavilan board of trustees 17 years ago when the property at the corner of Airline Highway and Fairview Road was purchased for eventual use by the college.

“It is incredible to see us finally breaking ground,” she told BenitoLink. “I am overjoyed that our students are not going to have to drive over Hwy 25 or Shore Road. They can come here on bikes or buses, and senior citizens will be able to come here also and take classes. All I am hearing from the community are positive remarks.”

The project was funded by Measure X, a $248 million bond measure passed in 2018 by voters in both San Benito and Santa Clara counties. The campus was allotted $59.9 million from the measure and had been initially scheduled for a 2022 construction date

With almost all of the permitting cleared, project manager Damon Felice said that surface work on the site could begin as soon as June 20. The college had begun underground work April 10

“We will begin by disking the site, probably on June 20,” he said. “Then, hopefully, on June 22, we will be able to start moving dirt. We are still waiting on one approval from Fish and Wildlife, but once we have it, that is the green light. We have been waiting and waiting forever, and it is good to be getting started.”

The first phase of construction will include a student assistance area, classrooms, a dining area, study areas and labs for technical education. Completing the campus will require more funding through another bond, according to statements made by former Gavilan College President Kathleen Rose at a May 2018 San Benito County Business Council meeting.

Speakers at the gathering included Avila, Robinson, Casey, County Supervisor Angela Curro, Director of Capital Projects for Gavilan College Serafin Fernandez, Governing Board President Jeanie Wallace, Hollister Site Director Judy Rodriguez and Associated Students of Gavilan College President Ysabella Johnson.

The event concluded with a ceremonial groundbreaking conducted by the speakers as well as local officials including San Benito County Sheriff Eric Taylor.

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