Students could see sprawling coastal views while they read their syllabuses at Coastline Community College's Newport Beach Campus Monday.
As the spring semester began, the concrete and glass building that dominates a 3.4-acre campus overlooking Banning Ranch welcomed students for the first time.
"Just looking outside at this expanse of nature and going upstairs and seeing it from up above, it just makes you feel good," art professor Chris Sullivan said.
She teaches a water-color class on the bottom floor of the three-story building.
"It's inspiring from a painting point of view. The class is ecstatic," Sullivan said.
Coastline cut the ribbon on the $48-million building in October, but Monday was the first day it could embrace its intended educational purpose. And many students got their first glimpse.
"The classrooms are modern. They look nice," said sophomore Brandon Hoang, who travels from Fountain Valley to take a critical-thinking class. "Our classroom — we have an ocean view, so it's very nice."
Coastline wanted a presence in Newport to make degree-required classes more accessible to coastal neighborhoods, spokeswoman Michelle Ma said
"We were really lacking in a location down in that area," she said. "Down in Newport we have a sailing center … but we don't have a full campus where you can take general education classes."
The building at 1515 Monrovia Ave. will also host acquired brain injury and paralegal programs, and the Coastline Art Gallery.
When it's at full capacity, the campus can serve 900 students, 35 faculty and 11 staff members, but Ma explained they're not operating quite that packed during they day; instead there's increased demand for night classes.
Construction was funded with money from Measure C, a $370-million bond voters approved in 2002.
It paid for the airy design that features floor-to-ceiling glass panes on the ocean-side wall and environmental elements like solar panels, zero storm runoff and a sustainable roof garden.
Sullivan said she's been anticipating the move after teaching for more than 12 years at a Costa Mesa campus Coastline leased from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
"That was cramped, and it was old, and there were ceiling tiles falling down, and there was no air conditioning, and the heater just blew around dust, but we made do," she said.
But her favorite part of the gleaming Newport building isn't her new teaching space.
"I like my classroom, but I also love going up to the roof garden. I was here on Thursday, and the sun was setting," she said. "You could smell the ocean coming in. It just was wonderful."