Marina, CA – Monterey Peninsula College's new campus officially opened in late September. The community college has planned to locate on the former Fort Ord since the Army base closed in 1994. Though MPC's President Douglas Garrison says at that time they didn't expect to be one of the only things out here. "We had anticipated that a substantial number of the housing projects would have been well underway at this point, which of course would add to the available population to attend here. But interestingly it hasn't really impacted our ability to offer courses here," said Garrison. This small campus is designed to attract local, first generation college students who might prefer a slow transition to a larger campus. Already enrollment is beyond projections.
Across the street at the Wellness Center recently built by the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) gym membership also exceeds goals. "It's just kind of the growth area on the Peninsula. It's the place with the land, the place with the potential," said Brenda Moore, Assistant Director of Communications for CHOMP. While CHOMP and MPC found success serving the existing population, both have plans to expand if other development picks up in the area.
It's been 17 years since Fort Ord closed. By the 20th year, the expectation was the base reuse plan would be 80% complete. "We are at 20 to 25% at best. Maybe a little bit further along with building roads," said Michael Houlemard, Executive Officer of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority. "But the commercial, the light industrial, the research, the schools are all way below what their predictions were for what they would achieve by this time." Given the economic times Houlemard says FORA is pretty lucky. It recently completed the expansion of General Jim Moore Boulevard, one of the main roads through the former base. And on Monterey County's piece of the former fort, the East Garrison development will soon break ground on affordable housing units in phase one of the project. "But by and large the $30-to-$50-million of additional revenue that we would've received in this same time frame 2007 to 2011 became a few hundred thousand," said Houlemard.
"I think we just need to be happy with what's going on with the Wellness Center and MPC, and just keep doing these smaller projects," said Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado. He expects a new cinema to be the next project completed. But as he celebrates these small projects, he also wonders how long to wait for the big ones. "The option is to reconsider the reuse plan of Fort Ord, but it's not just Marina, and I would favor putting some time and wisdom into doing that. Because if it's going to take 40 years instead of 15 years to fill up this office space is there some other use that's more beneficial for the community. And if we're not going to get all the jobs, why don't we be realistic about how many homes we want," said Delgado.