UI branch has new home, new outlook

UI branch has new home, new outlook

Winston Ross Staff writer

The view from Jack Dawson’s office says it all.

Two walls of windows, looking out across the glistening Spokane River. At this vantage point, he can see from North Idaho College to U.S. Highway 95. Boats and seagulls glide by.

And the rent: Ten bucks a year. Wednesday was Dawson’s first day of business at the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene’s new digs, at the Harbor Center. Dawson is the school’s dean.

Moving UI’s Coeur d’Alene campus is about more than a view for Dawson, of course. It’s a major step toward building an educational corridor in Coeur d’Alene. “There’s more higher education per square foot in North Idaho than in any other place in Idaho,” Dawson said.

The Harbor Center’s 29,000-square-foot building will house UI, Lewis-Clark State College, the UI Cooperative Extension office, Idaho State University and the North Idaho Center for Higher Education, if the final paperwork goes through.

Formerly, those institutions were all in separate places, with the higher education center trying to coordinate them all, making sure prospective students wound up at the right school. UI Coeur d’Alene occupied the second floor of the library at North Idaho College.

Now, they’ll all be in one building. Counting North Idaho College, students can earn up to a bachelor’s degree in five disciplines, a master’s degree in four disciplines and even a doctorate in education.

UI Coeur d’Alene serves about 1,700 students. It’s hoped that number will grow to 2,300 in the next five years. “If you live in our community, and you want to find out about higher education, you can come here,” Dawson said.

Classes will still be held on NIC’s campus, though UI wants to establish classrooms at Harbor Center in the future.

It’s made possible by a sweet deal the City of Coeur d’Alene granted the university.

The city, which owns the Harbor Center, is leasing the building to UI for $10 a year.

In exchange, the city hopes to be able to boast of an educational corridor, stretching from NIC to U.S.

Highway 95 on the Spokane River. In May, the city, NIC, UI and the Lake City Development Corp. signed an agreement that they’d work together toward that goal.

UI’s move from NIC’s campus will also free up space there, both in parking and in buildings.

Most important, Dawson says, is that UI increases awareness about its presence in Coeur d’Alene. Instead of students having to go to NIC and ask where to find information about UI, they can come to the Harbor Center, which is UI.

“The main thing is identity,” Dawson said. “We can’t exist without NIC. The advantage to this site is it’s just down the road from them, and yet we can be the University of Idaho.”

People who work in the building have discovered some other advantages, as well.

“I wouldn’t call it a box,” said Barb McDonald, a management assistant, of her former office at NIC. Cubby is a more appropriate term. “It was very tiny. I shared a window,” she said. “Now I have a marvelous view.”

Below her, on a walkway just up the banks of the Spokane River, McDonald can see a long planter, different sections of which she hopes to “adopt out” to people in the building. There’s a pigeon that visits from time to time. “They tell us we’ll get used to it, and not stare out the window.”

Copyright 2002 Cowles Publishing Company

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