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Lower Columbia College’s new health and science building will open its doors to the public Saturday to commemorate the college’s striking new structure.

From 1 to 4 p.m., anyone in the community can tour the 70,000-square-foot brick building on Maple Street and meet with faculty in the new labs and classrooms, all stocked with new equipment.

The opening comes more than a decade after the seed for the $38 million building was planted, as funding requests were held up by the Legislature and the recession. Construction started in 2012 and finished this summer, in time for the start of LCC’s first-quarter classes, which begin Monday.

The building marks LCC’s growing investment in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The building itself reflects that: It has new science equipment funded by a matched $845,000 grant; modern-classroom technology such as flatscreens; and engineering that lets natural light shine on nearly every room.

Nursing, the college’s biggest program after two-year transfer degrees, gets the second floor alongside medical assistance and allied health programs, and other science departments will make their homes on the first and third floors.

General-use classrooms that will be available for community use, a massive lecture hall on the first floor and a rooftop patio/rain garden are a few of the other new spaces the building provides.

Before the open house Saturday, a Masonic cornerstone-laying ceremony will start at 10 a.m. (There used to be a Masonic Lodge in the area, near where the Rose Center is today. Saturday’s ceremony is apparently unrelated to that history, as Freemasons have held cornerstone-laying ceremonies for notable public buildings for centuries.)

Washington’s acting Grand Master Jim Mendoza and LCC officials will seal the cornerstone plaque with a time capsule amid the traditional cornerstone festivities and speeches that is expected to draw Freemasons from around the region, including Kelso’s Don Talley. He is the grandson of the late state Sen. Don Talley, after whom the automotive technology building on campus is named.

“I like getting my hands into things like this and helping,” Talley said, “and the masons do very well at that.”

Talley said the public should be a part of the ceremony, which the Freemasons once marked with parades and which still feature corn or grain and wine and oil.

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Brooks Johnson covers Longview city government, Cowlitz PUD and Lower Columbia College for The Daily News. Reach him at 360-577-7828 or bjohnson@tdn.com.

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