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Construction boom under way at SDSU

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Since 1998, San Diego State University has experienced a 72.5 percent increase in the number of undergraduate applications it receives. Last fall, the university set a new record when it received 49,000 applications for about 7,600 openings.

The SDSU BioScience Center is slated for an October completion date. The university hired the design-build team of Pacific Cornerstone Architects and Swinerton Builders to enhance and finalize preliminary plans for the five-story, 33,300-square-foot building dedicated solely to research.

To serve the higher education needs of more students, SDSU has been busy constructing a number of new facilities that are part of its current Campus Master Plan. The university is also in the process of getting final approval on a revised Campus Master Plan. The revisions will help SDSU meet its goal of boosting enrollment capacity from 25,000 full-time equivalent students to 35,000 full-time equivalent students by 2025.

"By 2025, we're going to be 40 percent larger than we are today," said Tony Fulton, director of SDSU's Facilities Planning, Design and Construction department. "Most statistics show that the need for higher education in California is expected to grow by 28 percent over the next 20 years, and that increase has to be absorbed by all segments of the higher education system - UC, CSU and community colleges."

In addition to helping the university accommodate more students, ongoing and future Campus Master Plan projects will also help SDSU enhance its image as an outstanding institution for undergraduates, graduates and researchers; attract and retain top-caliber faculty; cultivate a more diverse student body; and continue to contribute to the region's economy. The money needed to construct the Campus Master Plan projects comes from a variety of sources, including state and public funding and private donations.

New faces on campus

Slated for completion this October is the new SDSU BioScience Center, a five-story, 33,300-square-foot building dedicated solely to research. The university hired the design-build team of Pacific Cornerstone Architects and Swinerton Builders to enhance and finalize preliminary plans for the building originally created by Dowler-Gruman.

A primary focus of the cutting-edge facility will be providing leading researchers from fields such as microbiology, cardiovascular biology, infectious disease and immunology with the equipment and other resources they need to study how infectious organisms contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Another key goal is to translate their discoveries into new, more effective ways of diagnosing and treating diseases. In addition to serving the needs of SDSU researchers, the new BioScience Center will also include space for privately-owned biotech and other science-focused companies to lease.

"The BioScience Center realizes SDSU's long-standing vision of a scientific workspace that serves both the private sector and the university," said Kevin Perry, a principal of Pacific Cornerstone Architects. "They recognize that there's a lot of synergy between the two sectors. Companies will benefit by having access to the latest research and cheap lab facilities, for example, and researchers will have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the marketplace reality of the private sector."

Another unique aspect of the BioScience Center is the way in which the money required to build it was generated.

"The BioScience Center is our first attempt at using income derived from research to help finance the building," Fulton explained. "That's never been done here or at any other CSU campus. It's something UCSD does all the time, but it's a new adventure for us and a positive step for the university."

To provide students with improved health care, a new Student Health Services Center is being built to replace the existing outdated facility. According to Fulton, the new facility has been "sorely needed" for a long time. It will provide a range of health services, from general and emergency medical care to imaging and specialty clinics, in an easily accessible and modern building. At 69,000 square feet, the new Student Health Services Center is three times as large as the old facility. It is expected to be finished by next summer.

Construction of a new College of Arts and Letters building is due to be complete by next April. Fulton said it will include about 220 new faculty offices, which will alleviate the need to share cramped quarters as many faculty members must do now.

Design plans for a new Alumni Center have been finalized and construction of the 49,500-square-foot building will begin once funding is secured. Located adjacent to the athletic center and Cox Arena, the Alumni Center will include a 350-seat banquet and meeting facility; offices for alumni and University Advancement staff; an alumni board room; and other meeting and conference facilities.

Bob Noble, a principal with Tucker Sadler Architects who designed the building, said the Alumni Association wanted the center to be highly flexible so it could be used for a variety of alumni and other SDSU events, such as large-scale galas or smaller, more intimate gatherings.

"The Alumni Association wanted the new center to feel like a home away from home for all alumni of SDSU," Noble explained. "They wanted a place that would be comfortable yet dignified, sort of like a private club. It's designed to be an inviting space where they will want to go and spend time."

The exterior of the Alumni Center is designed to provide a balance to the strong shapes of the nearby athletic center while design elements such as a 3,000-square-foot entry rotunda will give it a special presence on campus.

Other projects that are either under construction or in the planning pipeline include a new College of Business Administration building and a 5,000-square-foot addition to the International Student Center.

A new Performing Arts building with a 400-seat performing arts theater, dance studios and rehearsal space is also proposed. In addition, a new Tennis and Softball complex was recently completed and a Swimming Pool Complex with three pools is expected to be finished late next year.

Preparing for the tidal wave

Even more dramatic changes are in store for the university in the future. SDSU will go before the California State University Board of Trustees to seek approval of a revised Campus Master Plan this fall. The proposed plan includes new classroom and support space at Alvarado Campus Park along Alvarado Road, new student housing, a new and larger student union, a hotel, and affordable housing for faculty and graduate students on university-owned land just north of Interstate 8.

"In order to accommodate our expected enrollment increase, we had to look seriously at housing in our master plan this time," Fulton said. "We'll also need 1 million square feet of academic and research faculties, a good portion of which will be built on an extension of our master plan land base on Alvarado Road."

Revising the master plan to accommodate more students isn't just important for the university. Fulton explained that it's also vital to San Diego's economic health.

"We train much of the region's work force and we're going to need to accommodate a tidal wave of students," he said.


O'Donnell is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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