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Southwestern College Complex Reaches Construction Milestone

EDUCATION: $107M University Hub Project On Track for January Completion

CHULA VISTA – Southwestern College is on track to finish a nearly $107 million education complex that includes a planetarium by January.

Recent topping off ceremonies marked a milestone, with the project more than two-thirds complete.

Once the new complex is finished, South Bay students will be able to take classes at Southwestern to earn bachelor’s degrees from Arizona State University, Point Loma Nazarene University, and San Diego State University.

The project marks the first major university hub in Chula Vista, which is one of the largest communities in Southern California without an existing four-year university presence, according to college officials.

Aurora Ayala
Director, Facilities, Operations & Planning
Southwestern College

“We’re in the South Bay, and one of the things that we want to do as a community college is to remove any obstacles that our students may have to be able to get a four-year degree,” said Aurora Ayala, the college’s director of facilities, operations and planning.

“Some of our students have a hard time traveling to San Diego State, to UCSD (University of California San Diego), so if we can offer a four-year degree in South Bay and remove another obstacle, I would consider that a win for everybody,” Ayala said.

Designed by Gensler, the 113,801-square-foot Instructional Complex 1 will have 40 classrooms and labs, along with offices for the vice president of academic affairs and several college departments, including business, world languages, criminal justice, behavioral science, arts, communication, design and media, education, humanities, social science.

As of June, the project was about 70% complete.

Heart of Campus

“We replaced a lot of our classrooms, but we’ve also added a lot of office space,” Ayala said. “They’re all general classrooms and they’re meant to be multi-purpose classrooms,” Ayala said, adding that the project has “about three different types of labs that are able to have different functions, like our ASL (American Sign Language) lab, but they’re dry labs, so we can use them interchangeably.”

“Our university partners are going to benefit from the types of classrooms that we build because they have so much flexibility,” Ayala said.

The project will include a new 1,057-square-foot planetarium.

The college has also just finished construction of a $101.3 million student union building.

“These are two major projects that are in the heart of our campus,” Ayala said. “We’re very busy.”

The new construction is funded by Proposition R, a $389 million bond measure approved by voters in 2008, and Proposition Z, a $400 million bond measure approved by voters in 2016.

To make room for the new development, several buildings dating back to the 1960s were demolished. They included an old planetarium where temporary fixes were holding up overhangs.

“It was in dire need of some love,” Ayala said.

Demolition of the old buildings started in 2021, and the classes were moved into temporary modular buildings.

“Eventually, they’re going to go away,” Ayala said. “While we’re in construction, we move people into modulars and then, when we’re done, we put them in their new home.”

The new student union “is the heart of the campus,” Ayala said, both because of its location at the center of campus and because it will consolidate many of the student services that are scattered in several locations around campus.

“It has the bookstore, the café, our counselors, our veteran’ services. We’re going to have culinary arts that’s going in there, we have personal wellness,” Ayala said. “Now, they (students) are going to go to basically a one-stop shop and be able to hang out and do their homework in an indoor and outdoor area, whatever they prefer.”

The instructional complex is designed to be net zero energy, as is the student union, with the exception of the kitchens.

“It’s going to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce the costs on our general funds as well,” Ayala said.

Southwestern College
FOUNDED: 1961
HEADQUARTERS: Chula Vista
PRESIDENT/SUPERINTENDENT: Mark Sanchez
BUSINESS: community college
WEBSITE: www.swccd.edu
CONTACT: 619-421-6700
NOTABLE: The college began offering classes to 1,657 students in 1961 with temporary quarters in Chula Vista High School

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