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UniverCity Breaks Ground in Millenia Community

DEVELOPMENT: Think Campus First of Three Developed by Chestnut

UniverCity is on its way in eastern Chula Vista.

The state-of-the-art mix of office space, industrial, commercial, retail, residential, recreational and the growing city’s first library since 1995 – plus the hope for a four-year university nearby – broke ground on Sept. 25.

The city of Chula Vista hired developer Chesnut Properties, which is working with general contractor McCarthy Building Companies Inc. and building/technology infrastructure architect Gensler on the mixed-use project located in the Millenia master-planned community of Chula Vista.

Lee Chesnut
CEO
Chesnut Properties

“I am excited to be a part of something great happening in eastern Chula Vista,” said Chesnut Properties CEO Lee Chesnut.  “I have based my entire career on the idea that I would strive to put myself and my company into a position where great things can happen.  When I first walked onto the beautiful Mesa Millenia in eastern Chula Vista, I saw the ocean from the property and felt the cool breezes, I had a powerful feeling that this was going to be the place where great things are coming.”

Bringing those great things to Millenia has been in planning for more than seven years, and developing UniverCity Chula Vista has been a vision of leaders in the South Bay for decades.

Now the first phase of the project is estimated to be completed in fall 2025 and comes at a cost of $96.4 million. The project is being funded with $66.4 million from the City of Chula Vista and $30 million in state funding from the State of California Library Grant Program.

The entirety of UniverCity is entitled to accommodate four million square feet of academic space for 20,000 students and 6,000 faculty/staff, two million square feet of innovation district uses for 8,000 jobs, 1.6 million square feet of on-site living, 2 million square feet of market rate residential units and 160 acres of open space preserve surrounding the university property.

The first phase of the development includes construction of the four-level, 168,000 square-foot Class A “Think Campus” office building. The building’s anchor tenant will be a 60,000-square foot library that will include community meeting spaces, a passport office and a business incubator that provides resources and support for small businesses. UniverCity’s future designs include spaces for an “Invent Campus” and a “Discover Campus.”

Campus Synergies

Gensler Principal Darrel Fullbright said Gensler and Chesnut Properties were initially hired by Chula Vista in 2016 to look at a three-campus project, in which synergies of each of the campuses would help build one another.

Darrel Fullbright
Principal, Design Director
Gensler

“Similar to a number of university innovation districts, the Think Campus was intended to be for higher education, learning and research while the Invent campus would foster companies with spin-off commercial applications from the Think Campus,” he said. “Finally, the Discover Campus would focus on life-science applications and spin offs from the Think Campus. We were tasked with creating and would class destination that would attract best in class tenants.”

McCarthy and Gensler previously collaborated similarly on the science campus Aperture Del Mar.

Jose Bojorquez
Senior Project Manager
McCarthy Building Companies

“The Aperture designed by Gensler and built in Del Mar/Sorrento Mesa most closely represents this project in aesthetic, materials, and life-science capabilities which highlight the strong capabilities of McCarthy in delivering Class A product, on time and on budget,” Fullbright said.

Jose Bojorquez, McCarthy senior project manager, said after Chula Vista City Council approval last December, site work began July 10.

He said plans are for architectural concrete with a cantilever pop-out on the site’s west elevation with “unique curtain wall and window wall design for the exterior envelop.” He said there will be “open floorplans and indoor/outdoor work environments that are provided by movable glass walls to engage patios and decks.”

Outdoor Spaces

The concrete structure is intended to be exposed and showcase the authenticity of the design, Fullbright said, and the site will have a public park to the south and an on-site park to the north providing a series of outdoor spaces to both work and recreate.

Some of the highlights of the architectural features planned for UniverCity will be every floor having access to outdoor space with moveable wall systems that blur the lines between indoor and out. Additionally, the entire skin of the project is a high-tech pre-manufactured curtainwall system; and this includes both glass and metal finishes to provide the right amount of daylight and protection from the sun.

Chesnut Properties

FOUNDED:  1990
PRESIDENT AND CEO:  Lee Chesnut
HEADQUARTERS:  Rancho Santa Fe
BUSINESS:  Commercial real estate developer, ownership and management company
EMPLOYEES:  4
WEBSITE:  chesnutproperties.com
CONTACT:  susan@chesnutproperties.com
SOCIAL IMPACT:  Company supports Alzheimer’s San Diego, South County YMCA and Southwestern College Foundation Board
NOTABLE:  Lee Chesnut earned a degree in music and in the early 2000s owned his own record label, LMC Records

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