Schematic Designs for proposed Palm Springs Campus scheduled for review at Thursday meeting.
PALM DESERT — Schematic designs for the proposed College of the Desert Palm Springs campus at South Farrell Drive and East Tahquitz Canyon Way are scheduled to be reviewed when Trustees meet Thursday.
They were scheduled to be reviewed in January but Fred E. Jandt, who represents Area 3, which includes Palm Springs, was absent. Jandt also serves as vice chair.
The fresh schematic designs for the Palm Springs campus call for a slightly larger building footprint and include more detailed plans compared with to draft designs presented to the board in the summer and fall of 2022.
The newest designs propose 152,000 gross square feet of building space — an increase of about 10,000 square feet compared to the plans presented in the fall. About half of the roughly 27-acre lot will remain vacant for the foreseeable future, including the entire space along East Tahquitz Canyon Way.
Most of the instructional classrooms will be housed in a two-story structure along South Farrell Drive that focuses on general education, hospitality and other vocational programs, including media and culinary arts.
A room-by-room breakdown shows where COD could build a hospitality event space, multiple learning kitchens, a large computer lab, maker space, woodshop, TV studio and more.
How large those facilities should be and what exactly they should include has long been the subject of community debate.
In 2016, Coachella Valley residents voted to approve a $577.8 million bond fund for COD to build and improve campus sites across the valley. Campaign flyers suggested the college would use the bulk of the money to build a state-of-the-art hospitality campus in Palm Springs.
Before he retired as COD superintendent/president in early 2021, Joel Kinnamon urged the college to build a full-service hotel on the lot where students could gain work experience. Kinnamon was elected to the board of trustees in November.
Schematic designs for plans drawn under Kinnamon’s administration were at least 50% complete by November 2020, according to a $4.2 million contract between the school and the San Francisco-based architectural firm WRNS Studio.
When COD Superintendent/President Martha Garcia took office, she called for a review of plans related to this campus and the proposed automotive center in Cathedral City. She argued that the college needed to review costs, workplace needs and other data in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the college severed ties with its lead hospitality industry consultant.
But by August 2022, WRNS Studio and COD announced they would be moving forward with new designs for the site with input from a citizens advisory group made of residents and public officials around the valley.
A month later, Visit Greater Palm Springs softened its stance on a learning hotel when an independent hospitality study that it had commissioned recommended COD should not build a hotel.
A week after that study was published, COD released its own independent feasibility study that similarly did not recommend a hotel. That study, which included enrollment projections over the next five years, warned COD that it would struggle to fund the projected $1.5 million annual operating costs for even a downsized campus.
Although the new plans show no hotel, they do have mock hotel features like a suite and a reception area for training.
Thursday could mark the first meeting during which plans for the campus are discussed at length with Kinnamon on the board. Kinnamon defeated former trustee Aurora Wilson in November built largely around the theme “Get COD Back on Track.”