MSJC, city officials hold ‘Temecula Transformation Celebration’ for new campus

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People gather for a Mt. San Jacinto Junior College transformation ceremony at the future site of the Temecula campus, Sept. 13. The campus will be ready for college students in fall 2020 after the renovation is complete. Shane Gibson photo

Mt. San Jacinto College and Temecula city officials kicked off the renovation of what will soon be the college’s Temecula Valley Campus with a celebration that included speeches and the demolition of a fake brick wall, Friday, Sept. 13.

The campus, which is set to open to students for the fall 2020 semester, consists of two 5-story buildings at 41888 Motor Car Parkway in Temecula that Mt. San Jacinto College purchased from Abbott Laboratories in March 2018. Abbott will retain ownership of its other buildings in the area.

The buildings have a combined area of about 175,000 square feet – about the same square footage as all of the buildings on the college’s Menifee Valley Campus, which serves 15,000 students, put together.

Roger Schultz, Ph.D., superintendent and president of the college, thanked Temecula officials and the college’s trustees before many of the people behind the project took a sledgehammer to a foam wall in a ceremonial mark of the beginning of renovations.

“You know, I cannot emphasize enough that saying, what is it – it takes a village to raise a child. It really takes an amazing team to put together a facility like this,” Schultz said.

He thanked the project’s contractors, CW Driver, KPFF and 19six, which was recently recognized for “Outstanding Design in ‘Interior Work in Progress’” by American School and University Magazine.

The magazine praised the campus for being “designed with an emphasis on shared spaces where students from different classes can collaborate in a team environment.”

The Temecula Valley Campus will include 22 standard classrooms, six science labs and five computer classrooms, along with a learning resource center, library, student life enter, health center, veterans’ center and student services center across the two buildings.

Temecula Councilman Matt Rahn said in addition, the site includes space to construct a third building in a vacant patch of land that would complete a circle of structures around a central courtyard on the new campus.

Tom Ashley, the MSJC trustee who represents the Temecula area, said his son will be in the first class of students to be enrolled at the Temecula Valley Campus when it opens in 2020.

“That conversation now gets to happen with thousands of our local residents like, ‘Look what’s here – you can go here now,’” he said.

The college district purchased the site using bond funding from Measure AA – which voters approved in 2014 to pay for new facilities for the district.

Rahn said the idea for the Temecula Valley Campus was something that he first discussed with Temecula City Manager Aaron Adams just a few years ago – around 2016 or 2017, he said.

“I just sort of offhand mentioned the Abbott towers here, and at the time they weren’t being utilized by Abbot and so I said, ‘Well, what about this,’” Rahn said. “And you know, we met with them, and initially they weren’t interested – they didn’t want to sell, that wasn’t part of their business plan. And I remember saying to them, ‘I’ll take that as a maybe,’ you know.”

Despite the initial reluctance he described Abbott as having toward selling the buildings, everything eventually came together almost perfectly, Rahn said.

“We reached out to Roger Schultz and introduced him to the concept, had some subsequent meetings and watched this, you know, just amazing team of folks come together to make this happen,” he said.

Rahn said he felt from the first time he toured the new campus site that it was a perfect location for a community college.

“You have the mall down there; you have food. You have apartments surrounding the whole area. It’s right off – near the freeway,” Rahn said. “When we first convinced Abbott – before they were even willing to talk to us – Aaron and I convinced them to give us a tour of the building, and as soon as we walked in we were like ‘This is a college, right?’ They built it for their purposes, but this is a college, and I don’t think they did that – they obviously didn’t do it intentionally, but the stars all aligned on this one.”

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.