"The Innovation District provides the unique opportunity to establish multiple corporate campus sites in one location..."
Chula Vista wants a four-year university and they're looking to Mexico to find one.
"It took years, but we've assembled the land," Chula Vista city manager Gary Halbert said in an interview on July 14.
The city closed on the last piece of land in December and now holds 375 acres of land east of the South Otay Lakes area — a parcel large enough for a four-year college.
With the land next to the Olympic Training Center secured, the city has now committed $800,000 to finding a university partner and developing the site.
In April, U3 Advisors, a Philadelphia consultancy firm that specializes in university, hospital, and nonprofit development, secured a $488,000 contract. (The consultants brokered a deal in June that will bring a graduate-level engineering program from the Rochester Institute of Technology to Carlsbad.)
Duties include hiring a full-time project senior associate, whose first day of work will be August 1. Job qualifications include at least seven years of experience in urban planning, community development or economic development and a "deep knowledge of San Diego County, Southern California and Tijuana, Mexico”; understanding higher education trends, policies and practices in SoCal and Mexico; experience working with nonprofits and a strong command of Spanish.
"We are looking to partner with universities in Mexico," Halbert confirmed. "The U3 work effort will be putting together a recruitment package for universities — the city wants a four-year nonprofit or public university."
At first, the city considered hosting a satellite campus for San Diego State University or the University of California-San Diego.
"It would mean competing for state university funds and that brought resistance," said Paola Avila, of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
San Diego's public universities are mostly in central and north county, though more than a third of the population lives south of San Diego State University. Avila said the region's schools need greater emphasis on cross-border opportunities and bilingual education that can support U.S.-Mexico businesses such as technology and engineering.
A second contract, for up to $299,375 with Maryland–based architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross, is for a series of workshops on the development plans for the university and an “innovation park.”
Halbert says the city is committed to the project — land acquisition began in 2008.
"Chula Vista is the only city in California with more than 200,000 people that doesn't have a nonprofit or state university," he said. "We think that establishing this kind of school creates all kinds of opportunity for our residents."