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CSUN: Building for the Future

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When CSUN opened in 1956 it had 1,500 students. Today enrollment tops 36,000.

With that number in mind, the university has embarked on several new projects designed to meet the needs of a growing student body.

According to Colin Donahue, Vice President and CFO of Administration and Finance, the university currently has $200 million in active construction projects.

“All of them fall under the CSUN Road Map Plan,” said Donahue, “And all are centered on our strategy of academic and students success.”

The Road Map Plan was charged by university president Erika Beck to identify priorities aimed at taking CSUN to the next level.

The first major project is construction of Maple Hall. The 165,000-square-foot building was designed to take the load off Sierra Hall,  built in 1964. According to Donahue, Sierra Hall needs extensive renovation and Maple Hall is being built so that renovation could be phased in over time.

The $50 million state-funded classroom building will house the first new classrooms built in years, with 37 new rooms available in 2024.

Another addition is the affordable housing project at the southwest corner of Zelzah and Lassen. The state-funded $72 million building, “is much needed,” Donahue told Valley News Group. “By the spring of 2025 we will provide more affordable housing for 200 students. We’ve never had more demand because of our high quality education – and because affordability in the valley is terrible.”

A “basic needs” endeavor is also underway. The $25 million project to be completed in fall of 2025 will offer a kitchen, food lockers and a Maddy’s Closet where students can get clothes to interview in. “We’re trying to offer services – but de-stimatize them so students are comfortable in a nice, professional atmosphere. It’s not a massive project but it will make a big difference in student lives.” 

Valley News Group asked Donahue about where they were with the proposed on-campus hotel that generated a lot of community interest. He said that project was postponed due to COVID. That project was to be built with an outside developer, and the economics don’t work right now. “We’re gauging the market and talking to developers to see if there’s interest.”

Ken Ross of Northridge East Neighborhood Council asked on the academic side if the university was addressing the new wave of AI. And there is a new Autodesk Technology Engagement Center currently under construction. The $63 million project is a marriage of state and donor funds and will house a global Hispanic “Equity Innovation Hub,” an accelerator to get Latinex students and other underrepresented students to be successful in STEM fields. It connects  with the engineering department where they are building new state-of-the-art labs. 

The center was built with $7 million from Autodesk, government funds of $25 million and $25 million from Apple for programming.

Ross also asked if there was any chance of bringing back CSUN football?  The answer was a no. The problem is the amount of money it takes to support a football program. “We have strong baseball and soccer teams, and we’re the best in the nation in volleyball. We’re here for our 350 student athletes that never would be at college without sports,” explained Donahue.

He concluded the interview by saying, “We’re always open to talk. We always want to educate people on what our priorities are – and all of them focus on what’s the absolute best for our students.”

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