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School construction booming in the South Bay

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South Bay is one of the last bastions of attainable housing, making it one of the most attractive areas in the county for young families.

Construction nears completion on the $20 million National City Higher Education Facility. Developed jointly by Southwestern College, the San Diego County Office of Education and the city of National City, the project is built on 3.4 acres and features 12 classrooms, laboratories, a lecture hall, a family resource center and a child-care center. NTD Architects designed the project and Barnhart Inc. is the general contractor.

Proof of that statement is evidenced by the large number of school construction projects happening in all corners of the South Bay. From elementary schools to new centers for higher education, the last three years has seen a huge investment made to the area's educational infrastructure.

Rancho Bernardo-based builder Douglas E. Barnhart Inc., ranked the 10th-largest educational facility builder in the country by the "Engineering News Record" (climbing up 15 spots on the list since last year), is leading the construction surge of the South Bay's new schools.

One of the highest profile educational projects in the South Bay is about to come on line. The National City Higher Education Center is a $20 million joint effort between Southwestern College, San Diego County Office of Education and the city of National City.

Barnhart Inc. is constructing the 3.4-acre center, which will include 12 classrooms, various laboratories, a lecture hall, a family resource center and a child-care center.

Also for Southwestern College, Barnhart has finished up work on the $7.5 million, 48,000-square-foot One Stop Student Center in the middle of the Southwestern campus.

Barnhart's project list in the South County is extensive. It reveals a combined investment in excess of $100 million for South Bay schools.

And, although Barnhart has the majority of educational projects under way, this amount is just a portion of the total being spent on education in the cities of National City, Chula Vista, San Diego, Imperial Beach and Coronado.

"South Bay is growing up fast and smart," said Douglas E. Barnhart, who founded the company in 1983. "It is adding the necessary educational infrastructure to its communities as they are developed, thereby ensuring that the children of these beautiful communities will have close-by, well-built and state-of-the-art facilities in which to learn."

In the last three years Barnhart Inc. has built or continues to build 20 educational facilities in the South Bay alone.

In addition to the National City Higher Education Center, Barnhart also has several other education-related projects under way, including Tiffany Elementary School modernization, Otay Elementary School modernizations, National City Public Library and Otay Ranch Village Elementary School #6.

Barnhart began its educational focus 15 years ago when it built a small school northeast of Escondido. Though it was a small rural project, the educational facility represented a turning point for the company.

"Not realizing the magnitude of this market at that time, we were in on the ground floor," Barnhart said. "I began observing upcoming educational projects, and I knew we were ahead of the curve. We had six successfully completed projects, trained and efficient school crews and a subcontractor following before the rest of the industry caught up. Parents want the best for their children and the community appreciation for a job well done is highly worth it."

Schupp is executive vice president of Marston+Marston Inc.

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