Major expansion of JP Catholic under way


DOUBLING SPACE: The property at 131 S. Broadway in Escondido will be converted into a new Creative Arts Academic Complex for John Paul the Great Catholic University. (Credit: Luca Hoang)

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ESCONDIDO — Renovations are under way on a 30,000-square-foot Creative Arts Academic Complex that will more than double John Paul the Great Catholic University’s academic space.

The building, which the university purchased in 2016, will be divided into two separate buildings.

The Cinema Arts and Visual Arts programs will be housed in one building, with Performing Arts in the other. A courtyard between the two will serve as a venue for community events, outdoor performances, and student life activities.

The complex, which spans an entire city block in downtown Escondido, will house a sound stage, illustration studio, acting rehearsal studio, additional classrooms, computer labs and more.

Professor George Simon, chair of Communications Media, described the complex as “the most significant development in our campus’ history.” He said that it is going to “radically expand the campus in a really exciting way.”

“The existing facility was limited in that a lot of the academic programs had to share space,” explained Dr. Derry Connolly, the university’s founding president.

As an example, he noted that the film production sound stage has been serving double duty as rehearsal space for students in the acting program, which “is growing in leaps and bounds.”

The university hopes to be holding classes in the new complex by next January.

“One of the key aspects of our curriculum is the feature film program,” through which students collaborate to make feature-length films, said Simon. “This new building gives us the facilities that we need to really support that program as it continues to grow and as we look forward to expanding our large-scale production capabilities.”

John Paul the Great Catholic University, also known as JP Catholic, was founded in 2003.

The university combines hands-on programs, such as film, animation, design, music, acting, and business entrepreneurship, with a Catholic liberal arts education in theology, philosophy and humanities.

It opened in September 2006, welcoming its inaugural class of 30 students at a rented facility in Scripps Ranch that served as a temporary campus.

In 2013, it relocated to a permanent campus in downtown Escondido, where enrollment has grown to 300, including international students.

After some delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, pre-construction prep work on the Creative Arts Academic Complex began in late January with major construction beginning on March 6.

Connolly said the combined cost of purchasing and renovating the building will be close to $7.5 million.

The new complex will join a campus that already includes an academic building, administrative building, and student life center. Another building purchased in 2016, but yet unoccupied, will become St. Teresa of Calcutta Chapel “whenever God sends us the money” for the necessary renovations, Connolly said.

With regard to the Creative Arts Academic Complex, he hopes that it will serve as a place where some of the university’s “extraordinarily talented” alumni can bring one of their professional projects – be it a feature film or a video game – and give current undergraduates the opportunity to collaborate with them on it.

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