Southwestern College began construction on two new projects Monday, including a $53 million Performing Arts Center that will serve as the gateway to the South Bay community college campus.
Together, the two buildings will cost nearly $70 million. The Performing Arts Center will be located on the corner of East H Street and Otay Lakes Road, known as “the Corner Lot.”
The college’s governing board has long struggled with determining the next best steps for “the Corner Lot,” once a pumpkin patch and Christmas Tree lot during the fall and winter seasons.
Speaking at a ground-breaking ceremony Monday evening, Governing Board President Griselda Delgado told a personal story about experiencing the Long Beach Symphony for the first time when she was in the sixth grade and discovering the magic of music and performing arts.
“If we don’t create access points for children to experience arts then they will never be awoken like I was,” said Delgado, noting the ground-breaking event coincided with National Arts Week.
Access to arts increases college graduation rates for low income students by 50 percent, Delgado said.
The Performing Arts Center will join the Wellness and Aquatics Complex, which opened in January. It will house a 500-seat theatre, brand new classrooms, a prop construction lab and a new dance studio.
The construction projects are funded by Propositions R and Z, passed by South County voters in 2008 and 2016, respectively.
In 2008, voters in San Ysidro, National City, Coronado, Otay Mesa and Chula Vista approved the $389 million bond measure to renovate old classrooms and develop the Corner Lot.
In 2010, the college sought bids to build an administrative and conference space as the gateway to the college, but later cancelled the construction contract after irregularities were discovered in the bidding process and construction costs of the new building.
A new board determined a space for students and the community made more sense for the Corner Lot than an administration building.
Performing Arts student Jovani Chavez couldn’t agree more.
“I’m honestly so relieved that the attention we need is finally going toward the performing arts,” said Chavez. “It’s an opportunity for us and one of the few steps that will make a big change for us.”
Construction on the new performing arts building will be complete in about two years, according to speakers at the event.
The second project announced Monday will be a $6.8 million College Police Building, which will include an evidence room, an armory, security monitoring, emergency communications, meeting rooms and secure parking for police vehicles.
The new police building will be located on opposite end of the campus.
“Since the start of the semester, it’s been a little busy,” said Police Chief Davis Nighswonger, referencing a student threat that closed the campus last week. “It’s important for us to be able to provide these critical public safety services to the students, staff and community.
Student performers, including mariachi musicians and theatre students, performed at the ribbon cutting ceremony.