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Community college rents half of former Temecula city hall
Friday, September 27th, 2013
Issue 39, Volume 17.
The agreement, which was recently approved in separate actions by elected city and college officials, marks another Temecula departure from such typical municipal functions as parks, road maintenance and police and fire protection services.
"It makes, we think, good sense," Aaron Adams, Temeculaís city manager, said in an interview after the City Council authorized staff to proceed. A similar action by Mt. San Jacinto trustees prompted Roger Schultz, college president and superintendent, to praise the "strong partnership" and "tremendous commitment" that the deal represented.
"Another important aspect is the long-term savings MSJC will reap from leasing the former city hall," Schultz said.
The agreement will provide the second floor of Temeculaís former city hall to the college for $1 per year. The 15,000-square-foot education center, which has been named TEC2, will augment an existing Temecula college center that has operated since 2008.
Mt. San Jacintoís 1,700-square-mile service area stretches from Temecula to Banning and Beaumont. One out of four of the collegeís nearly 14,000 students lives in Temecula or Murrieta, according to Mt. San Jacinto materials.
The lease is another instance in which Temecula has used its funds or facilities to help expand college programs in the area. The city also hosts an annual college fair, which on Sept. 22 attracted more than 7,000 youths as well as representatives from about 175 universities, colleges and career training programs to the Promenade mall.
The college fair and city efforts to increase higher education programs are seen as a way to benefit current and future students as well as employers who seek highly-trained workers.
Conversely, creating a vast pool of educated workers is seen as a way of attracting companies that are considering relocating to Southern California.
"It was logical," Adams said. "Weíve kind of learned thatís what itís going to take."
In 2008, a combination of city and developer incentives lured California State University San Marcos to a temporary facility in an industrial building. That signaled the origin of the first satellite campus of Cal State San Marcos.
Two years later, a three-way deal was crafted to keep the cash-strapped state university in Temecula for another decade or more.
The university relocation plan called for the city to spend about $3 million in redevelopment funds to do building renovations and add parking spaces to the Joan Sparkman Alternative Education Center near the intersection of Margarita and DePortola roads. That campus once served as an elementary school, but surplus space became available when enrollment stabilized within the fast-growing Temecula Valley Unified School District.
School district trustees agreed to lease 14,395 square feet of that campus to the university for $1 per year for 10 years. Enrollment has grown dramatically at the Temecula satellite campus, and course offerings have increased over the past three years.
Course offerings are expected to continue to grow at Cal Stateís Temecula campus, and officials say enrollment could eventually climb to more than 500 students there. That would allow the Temecula facility to be recognized as an official off-campus site in the state system.
A similar surplus of space set the stage for Mt. San Jacintoís upcoming expansion in Temecula.
When Temecula became a city in December 1989, council meetings were held in a community center owned by theTemecula Town Association. Temecula soon leased an industrial building as its first City Hall, which it occupied for several years.
Temecula officials eventually shifted from their leased City Hall into a municipally-owned building. In July 1995, the council voted to spend $1.4 million to buy a vacant office building along Business Park Drive. The building cost $3.9 million to construct three years earlier, and it had an assessed value of $4.7 million at the time of the purchase.
The 29,500-square-foot building was significantly larger than the rented building a short distance away. The building, which was eventually flanked by a pair of ancillary public works facilities, served as City Hall until December 2010.
At that time, Temecula opened its current Civic Center, a 95,500-square-foot complex that cost about $73 million in land, infrastructure and construction costs.
The Civic Center includes a conference center, a parking garage, outdoor amphitheater and satellite police and tourism promotion offices.
After the idea of turning the former city hall into a police station proved to be too costly, council members opted to instead use it to house small, start-up companies that it hopes to nurture and grow. That so-called business incubator opened in November 2012. It now houses seven companies, primarily in laboratory testing and the computer software and hardware industries, said Cheryl Kitzerow, a Temecula economic development analyst.
"We think thatís a great success rate," she said.
The first floor of the building can fit 15 or more firms, Kitzerow said. The companies pay an average rent of about $200 a month, and the goal is for them to outgrow their incubator status and take root in the Temecula area. The city pays to maintain the first floor of the building, and there is expected to be sufficient parking to serve both the college and the incubator companies.
The energy and entrepreneur spirit of the business incubator will mesh with Mt. San Jacinto students, Kitzerow said. In addition to be beneficial interaction, there may also be opportunities for students to be hired as interns at the incubator firms, she said.
"It was kind of a perfect fit," Kitzerow said. "We think itís a huge home run."
Some limited renovations must be done by Mt. San Jacinto before classes can begin. The former council chambers, a large open room on the second floor, will likely be used as a large classroom or a video conference setting.
The three-year lease will also promote greater ties between the community college and Cal State San Marcos, officials said. It will allow some students to obtain a bachelorís degree and possibly even a masterís degree without leaving Temecula.
Mt. San Jacinto will continue to lease its existing Temecula building along Enterprise Circle West. That building serves more than 2,000 students, according to college enrollment materials.
Enrollment is rebounding throughout the community college district despite deep funding cuts that lasted several years. About 660 additional seats were needed to handle the enrollment increase from last fall to the spring semester, officials said.
The college district owns its campuses in Menifee, San Jacinto and the San Gorgornio Pass. The new Temecula facility will significantly increase the community collegeís presence in the southwest quadrant of the county, said Karin Marriott, Mt. San Jacintoís director of public information and marketing.
"Our commitment is to student success and we look for every opportunity to proceed in that direction," she said.
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