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Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, left, and John Paul the Great Catholic University President Dr. Derry Connolly take part in the opening of the new “campus living room,” at its Grand Avenue location in Escondido on Monday. Courtesy photo
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Catholic university celebrates newest addition

ESCONDIDO — The newest addition to John Paul the Great Catholic University was unveiled on Monday.

A sparkling new Student Life Center, at 200 W. Grand Ave., is the latest in a series of renovation projects revitalizing Escondido’s downtown and the university.

The landmark brick building used to house the HomeFed Bank branch, but JP Catholic purchased the property in 2015 for $1.1 million.

The newly renovated 5,600-square foot building, which JP Catholic President Dr. Derry Connolly calls “the campus living room,” will provide a space for students to gather and study, and will also house the offices of various student services on the second floor.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, city council members, various Escondido city officials and the Chamber of Commerce joined the JP Catholic community for the occasion and to express support of the university’s growth.

The new student center is just part of the institution’s expansion plans. In January, the school announced a large-scale project to increase enrollment up to 1,200 students. Currently, 300 students are enrolled.

Four buildings now dot the small campus in downtown, but a new addition along 2nd Avenue consists of a 30,000 square-foot building with 100 parking spaces on 1.25 acres.

Terry and Barbara Caster donated $1.5 million to the school so it could purchase the building.

It also provides space for a dedicated chapel, will add an auditorium for the theology program, which is expected to be the largest in the state by 2020.

Other additions include larger classrooms, film sound stages, editing lab, screening room, an acting lab and performance stage.

The school moved to Escondido from Scripps Ranch several years ago, which Connolly said was in part due to the possibilities for growth.