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Higher education reaches out to local business community

Colleges and universities are rising to the challenge of educating San Diego County's growing population.

Nearly every higher learning institution in the county is engaged in major construction, designed to make learning more accessible to students and -- in many cases -- make research more accessible to corporations. The projects are keeping contractors busy, too.

San Diego State University plans to unveil its BioScience Center next month.

The University of San Diego will break ground on its School of Leadership and Education Services building in April 2006.

San Diego State University is preparing to open the Coastal Waters Lab this spring, which will serve as a shared research center for SDSU and the United States Geological Survey, said Jason Foster, director of media relations for SDSU. The lab will feature a 100,000-gallon research tank and SDSU and USGS researchers plan to use the space to study coastal pollution and runoff, Foster said.

Foster pointed out that the lab's impact will stretch beyond the academic community.

"The health of the coast is important to a variety of industries," he said. "Tourism comes to mind."

SDSU plans to unveil The BioScience Center, a new on-campus research facility, next month, said Tony Fulton, director of facility planning and construction. Foster said the space will provide researchers with the opportunities they could use to spin off startup biotech firms from their research. The project is funded by research revenue through the university's foundation.

The bottom floor will house research animals, the main entry floor will be office space, and the third through fifth floors will be dedicated to research, Fulton said.

SDSU also has The College of Arts & Letters building, a new student health services building, and a new swim complex in the works. The school recently won approval of a master plan to grow enrollment by 40 percent. Foster said the expansion calls for a new residence hall; an on-campus hotel; and 1 million additional square feet of office, classroom and infrastructure space. Fulton estimates the master plan project will take about 20 years to complete.

California State University at San Marcos has similar plans to integrate the business community into the fabric of the school day. Markstein Hall, a $26.8 million classroom and office building slated for completion by the end of the year, will house the university's college of business and provide space for the departments of communication, economics and political science, said Rick Moore, director of communications.

"We see (Markstein Hall) as a resource for the local business community, as a place for meetings and other things for the North County business community," Moore said.

Markstein Hall was funded by an initiative by former Gov. Gray Davis that did not require voter approval. Moore said it was part of a stimulus package to create construction jobs.

A renovation of Craven Hall, an administrative building, is also under way. Moore describes the project as "deep in planning," and said the $5.3 million project will create a "one-stop student service center" -- housing the admissions department, cashier's office and financial aid department -- when it is finished in October 2006. About half of the building, 70,000 square feet, is scheduled for renovation, Moore said.

A voter-approved bond issue funded Craven Hall.

A social and behavioral sciences building, estimated at $50 million, is several years off, Moore said.

Pt. Loma Nazarene University's Fermanian Business School is also under construction. The building will feature Wi-Fi, classrooms, conference space and "smart podiums" modeled after those at the University of Southern California, said Calvin Biggers, manager of maintenance and projects.

The university is also planning to renovate an existing religious building to house visiting business leaders who attend conferences in the new business college building, Biggers said.

Biggers added that the new addition will benefit the local economy by helping the school turn out students with advanced degrees, such as MBAs.

A 17,000-square-foot administration building named Draper Hall was recently completed, Biggers said. Nease Hall, another Pt. Loma Nazarene project, is a dormitory that allows 100 more freshman girls to live on campus.

The University of San Diego has scheduled an April 2006 groundbreaking for a new School of Leadership and Education Services building, a two-story, 80,000-square-foot project to be constructed on the main campus on an existing parking lot, according to an e-mail from Liz Harman, a USD spokeswoman.

The new building will provide a 300-seat auditorium, a library, four new state-of-the-art classrooms, a video conferencing room, computer lab and administrative space for the existing School of Leadership and Education Services, currently located at the west end of campus, Harman said. She added that the building will primarily serve graduate students, but undergraduates will use the space as well.

The building will aid the local economy, even beyond housing the Educational Leadership Development Academy, which Harman cited as preparing more than 70 percent of the San Diego school district's principals and administrators.

"I think the greatest impact (to the economic development of San Diego County) will be in the dollars that will go into the economy, through the contractors or even licensing fees," said Pamela Gray Payton, assistant vice president of public relations.

USD is also planning two additions to on-campus housing. An addition to the existing three buildings of the Alcala Vista Housing complex is currently under construction, and scheduled for completion in June 2006, according to Harman. A proposed Mission Student Housing complex -- with accommodations for 258 students -- would replace an older 116-bed structure, Harman said. The two additions would allow an additional 274 students to live on campus.

An economic impact study in 2001 revealed that each USD student spent at least $14,000 a year, according to Harman. Since then, the number of USD students has increased from 7,000 to 7,500, increasing the impact to the local economy by at least $7 million.

The University of California, San Diego has 22 construction projects worth about $733 million in the works. Spokeswoman Pat JaCoby said a $72.1 million renovation of the Price Center and Student Center is under way. These buildings house meeting rooms and food services.

Approximately $43 million is being dedicated to the Rady School of Management, a building to house the graduate school and provide office and classroom space, JaCoby said. The Hopkins parking structure, estimated at $30.6 million, will be complete in May 2007.

Fifty thousand square feet are being added to the San Diego Supercomputer Center at a cost of $41.7 million, JaCoby said, and $66.5 million will go toward North Campus housing.

JaCoby said the projects are helping UCSD make its mark on the San Diego economy "by hiring a lot of people, for sure. Every job has trucks coming and going and construction workers all over the place."

The San Diego Community College District is doubling the size of the existing Educational Cultural Complex -- which serves the district's continuing education students -- by adding new buildings, bringing in a skills center and moving the automotive program from its current downtown location, said Director of Public Information Barry Garron.

Garron said a planned parking structure is garnering excitement at Mesa College. The structure would have 15,020 parking spaces and is scheduled for completion in 2007.

The district has several projects approved for construction throughout the district thanks to the Proposition S Construction Bond.

"(Mesa College) was built in '62 and with a really low budget," said John Nunes, a spokesman for the district. "If you see the majority of the buildings at Mesa, you'll see they were pretty cheaply done. That's probably why the voters didn't hesitate to pass the bond measure."

Thirty-five hundred square feet of Mesa College's Art Galley and support area space in the D-100 Building will get a facelift to improve the quality of learning there, according to www.sdccdprop-s.com/news/NEW_NEWS.PDF. About 10,000 square feet will be added during a renovation of the Student Services Department at Mesa.

The existing "R" Building at City College will be renovated to add at least six classroom facilities -- about 15,000 square feet -- on the southern half of the first floor.

Miramar College will have a newly constructed 30,000-square-foot Technology Building with classroom space, computer labs and office space for the business and math departments. Bungalows will be demolished at Miramar to make room for a 30,000-square-foot Arts and Humanities building featuring classrooms, studios, labs, and lecture and office space.

"Leave a Legacy Plaza" -- with a central fountain, lighted pathways and congregating areas -- is also in the works at Miramar. The plaza's design aims to provide student safety, meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and enhance access between new Proposition S buildings and parking lots.

The district also plans to acquire property in or near Kearny Mesa to consolidate the North City Career Center and Clairemont Continuing Education programs in a roughly 50,000-square-foot building. The goal of the consolidation is to provide a fully integrated English-as-a-second-language program, business information computer labs, GED preparation, high school diploma classes, classes for older adults and space for parenting classes.

Another consolidation is planned for the Cesar Chavez Campus and Centre City Continuing Education programs. The project will acquire property at the Cesar Chavez location on which to construct a 45,000-square-foot building to provide a fully integrated ESL program, business information computer labs, expanded Certified Nursing Assistant and Home Health Care Aide program, GED preparation, and expansion of the clothing and textiles and professional baking programs.

"As we add occupational programs, students are able to gain the skills that are in demand in the work place," Garron said. "Most, if not all, of the contractors are local, so we're providing jobs for San Diegans."

Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District is spending $207 million in 2002's Proposition R bond money over 24 months, said Susan Herney, manager of college and community relations. Prop R gave $107 million to Grossmont College and $75 million to Cuyamaca. The remaining $25 million will go toward refinancing construction-related debt, technology infrastructure and program management over 10 years.

The district has instituted a unique contractor outreach program, the goals of which are to create jobs in East County by informing local contractors through seminars and workshops about projects and assisting them in the bidding process, and to increase the number of viable firms competing for contracts to ensure a more competitive bid. Of this year's total $41.2 million in awarded contracts, $17 million went to East County firms. Gafcon, a construction management firm headquartered in San Diego, is managing the outreach program for the district.

Deanna Weeks, a member of the district's board of trustees and CEO of the East County Economic Development Council, said the district has a long history of working with local industries.

"What we do is make sure local contractors and suppliers are in the path of opportunity," Weeks said. "It's really a symbiotic relationship, because by getting these new facilities, it's making the college that much better at educating students."

The Science Building at Grossmont College will house labs, storage facilities, offices, a computer lab and a greenhouse in 37, 834 square feet. Completion is scheduled for winter 2006. Also projected for a winter 2006 completion is road widening and the addition of traffic signals at the south end of Grossmont's campus.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Grossmont's digital arts and sculpture building complex is scheduled for Nov. 14. The building will house traditional and digital photography labs, a digital multimedia lab, media labs -- including campus radio station KGFN -- and faculty offices. The Sculpture Laboratory Building and Yard will showcase sculpture, 3-D design/jewelry studios and a large outdoor sculpture work yard.

Cuyamaca's Science & Technology Mall, projected for completion in spring 2007, will provide office space and lab space for life sciences, physical sciences and computer sciences. The space will be similar to a mall environment, and anchored by a ground-floor open-access computer center.

A Communication Arts Building will become the visual landmark at the Rancho San Diego Parkway entrance to Cuyamaca. The building will house disciplines such as English, ESL, fine and professional arts, speech, American Sign Language and performing arts. The enclosed digital theater will present virtual environments.

A parking expansion and Student Center are also planned for Cuyamaca. The two-story Student Center will house a bookstore, food services, student affairs administration, health center, student government, club offices and meeting rooms. There will also be a plaza for large student functions, an outdoor gathering area and a deck overlooking the lawn.

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