Sacramento State on Tuesday said it had paid $5.4 million for a building near the state Capitol to fulfill its long-held plan to open a new School of Public Affairs downtown.
University Enterprises Inc., a nonprofit arm of the university, bought a three-story building at 304 S St., the university said. The school did not rely on public funds.
“Sac State is invested in the city of Sacramento, and we are invested in the state of California,” said Robert S. Nelsen, president of California State University, Sacramento. “We needed a presence that demonstrated this investment and would offer our students that access to the education they need in the most accessible area we could find downtown.”
CSUS officials have discussed plans to open a School of Public Affairs downtown for more than 20 years, Nelsen said. “When I got here, I put it on the front burner.”
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The president, who began at CSUS in July, has met with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, as well as with alumni who work at the Capitol and the media in an effort to make the downtown school a reality.
The 30,610-square-foot building is close to the freeway and has 75 parking spaces. “It has an excellent Mexican restaurant around the corner,” Nelsen said.
The school will include a center for collaborative policy, an institute for social research and the capital fellows programs, as well as master’s-degree-level courses in in urban land development, and public policy and administration, said spokeswoman Elisa Smith.
The center may eventually include a number of the university’s other government-related programs, as well as some of its business and education programs, according to university officials. The Center for California Studies, which administers the capital fellows programs, will remain on the main campus.
About 9,000 square feet of space in the building will be reserved for the College of Continuing Education, which will offer training for various agencies, including CalPERS, which is located nearby, Nelsen said.
The School of Public Affairs is expected to open Aug. 29 with about 100 students and will eventually expand to several hundred, Smith said.
The building has been vacant for about a year but formerly housed attorneys’ offices. Before that, it was leased by the state for the Department of Health Services. The department moved out of the building in about 2008, according to Michael Liang, assistant deputy of public affairs for the state Department of General Services.
Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, said she is excited about Sacramento State’s newfound presence in downtown Sacramento. “I think it’s beneficial all the way around,” she said “It’s important to be closer to all the people who work downtown and at the state Capitol.”
Last year, the University of the Pacific expanded its graduate programs in the capital at its McGeorge School of Law campus in Oak Park. The private university will offer a master of business administration, doctor of education, master of public policy, master of physician assistant studies and a master of public administration.
UC Davis also has expressed interest in opening a public-policy institute near the Capitol.
Nelsen isn’t concerned about potential competition. “Sacramento needs all three universities to be strong and needs the community colleges to be strong,” Nelsen said. “I don’t see us in direct competition but in collaboration to make this city a greater city.”
Matsui would like to see even more educational activity downtown. She said it adds to the vitality of the state Capitol and attracts more students to the region. “I think the more educational institutions downtown the better it is,” she said. “We have room to grow.”