CSN’s Northwest Campus awaits legislative funding

It has been stop and go for 12 years for advocates of a Northwest Campus of College of Southern Nevada. And the way things are going, it could take longer than anyone in the know is willing to say before funding from the state becomes available to allow the first construction shovel into the ground.

Money from the Legislature to make it happen “is probably the biggest challenge these days,” commented Steve Ross, former Las Vegas city councilman. Ross has been the driving force in bringing the institution of higher education into Ward 6, his home area.

For residents of Summerlin, the projected site of the campus would be closer than any of the other CSN locations — North Las Vegas, Charleston, Henderson and Mesquite. CSN is the largest higher education institution in Nevada, with a student population of more than 34,000.

“Soon after I first got elected to the City Council, I began my push to bring the college into the Northwest,” he commented.

That was in 2004, before the housing and commercial boom had begun. Since, Ross has maxed out his permitted three four-year terms on the council, still waiting to see the fruits of his college campaign in the form of the seven-building campus planned for construction in the heart of one of the most bustling areas of Las Vegas.

To put it into perspective, “Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center was then only under construction,” Ross said. He added that he foresaw the need for bringing higher education into his ward due to the area’s anticipated growth, irrespective of the economic downturn.

Last spring, a month before the expiration of Ross’s final term, the first major step was taken in creating what will one day become known as the Northwest Campus of CSN.

On June 7 the City Council voted to adopt a development agreement with the Nevada System of Higher Education that allows the campus to be built on 41 acres of property that had formerly belonged to the federal government. The agreement is the result of a land grant, which had to be approved by Congress, transferring the acreage from the Bureau of Land management to CSN.

“That was a big day,” Ross recalled. It was the culmination of 12 years of hard work that included “numerous discussions with Mike Richards, president of CSN. It even involved my testifying before the Higher Education Board of Regents. And all along the way the plan for a Northwest Campus has had the backing of everyone.”

The site is along both sides of North Durango Drive, bounded by West Elkhorn Drive, Grand Montecito Parkway and Oso Blanca Road, several blocks from Centennial Hills Hospital. A pedestrian bridge across North Durango Drive will separate the two parcels of property.

So what’s next? Other than several signs that state “CSN Future home of our Northwest Campus,” there has been no further movement.

“I can only assume the holdup is because of the need for money,” Ross suggested.

Funding may in fact be the key to progress. When the City Council gave its approval last June, it was estimated that just the first college structure, approximately 60,000 square feet, would cost more than $40 million.

Efforts to speak to officials in the Nevada System of Higher Education have been met with a blank wall. Public information officer Richard Lake did say in an email:

“There is no new information on CSN’s plans for the Northwest Campus. The issue has been reported on several times in the local media already (last June, at the time the City Council voted on the matter). We don’t believe going over well-covered ground again is necessary … We’re not going to comment further than what we already have.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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