Sac State buys downtown building for Public Affairs school

Sacramento State, strengthening its role as California’s capital university, made a historic move into downtown Sacramento on Tuesday, May 17, with the purchase of a three-story building at 304 S St. It will house Sacramento State’s planned School of Public Affairs.

(Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

304 S St; Photo courtesy of Jessica Vernone, Sacramento State

The purchase is about more than just brick and mortar. Expanding the University into downtown will allow more students to get the classes they need to graduate on time and to succeed in their careers.

University Enterprises Inc. (UEI), a nonprofit auxiliary of Sacramento State, bought the structure a few blocks southwest of the Capitol for approximately $5.4 million. No state funds were used in the purchase. The 30,610-square-foot building, constructed in 1990, comes with 75 parking spaces.

“The establishment of a downtown School of Public Affairs is exciting for both Sac State and the city of Sacramento,” says President Robert S. Nelsen. “The dream of a downtown campus was born during the presidency of Don Gerth, developed during the tenure of former President Alexander Gonzalez, and is now a reality.

“The city, the mayor, our public policy alumni group, and the citizens of Sacramento have been asking for Sac State to establish a presence downtown, and we are now #MakingItHappenAtSacState. We are the capital’s university and, with this new building, we are delivering on the promise to offer programs and courses near the State Capitol and City Hall.”

The School of Public Affairs would be home to several signature government-related programs, including the Center for Collaborative Policy, the Institute for Social Research (ISR), and the Capital Fellows Programs, along with the master’s-level courses in urban land development, and public policy and administration.

Classes could be held at the new campus as early as this fall. The semester begins Monday, Aug. 29. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school will be held later this year.

304 S St; Photo courtesy of Jessica Vernone, Sacramento State

304 S St; Photo courtesy of Jessica Vernone, Sacramento State

Political leaders are praising Sacramento State’s move into the downtown area:

  • Mayor Kevin Johnson: “To be a great city, you must have a great downtown, and you can’t have a great downtown without a university presence. We couldn’t be more pleased by President Nelsen’s plan to establish a Sacramento State campus in our downtown, creating an economic boon for our region and our workforce. This campus will bring a new energy, vibrancy, and spirit, and will add to the incredible momentum we’re experiencing.”
  • Congresswoman Doris Matsui: “Today’s announcement further solidifies Sacramento State’s role as a leading academic, cultural, and policymaking institution in our region. Having the School of Public Affairs downtown will place students, faculty, and staff at the intersection of the exciting growth and activity happening in our state’s capital. I know that the collaboration, learning, and innovation that will take place in the School of Public Affairs will leave its mark on our growing downtown community.”
  • Assembly member Kevin McCarty: “A downtown Sacramento State campus is great news for Sacramento. The ability for working professionals to be close to their campus, and for the downtown core to host our local state university is a win-win. I know this firsthand as a graduate of Sacramento State’s master’s program and as a public policy professional.”

Until now, the University’s downtown presence was largely limited to the Center for Collaborative Policy.

Potentially joining the center, ISR, and Capital Fellows Programs at the new school are: the Project for an Informed Electorate (PIE), the Sacramento Semester Program, and the Government Department Internship Program. The Center for California Studies, which administers the Capital Fellows Programs, will remain on the University’s main campus.

Also expected to have a presence at the new school are the College of Continuing Education, the Master’s of Business Administration for Executives program, the Center for Small Business, and the Education Insights Center. Some undergraduate government classes related to California politics also may move downtown.

“I view the School of Public Affairs project as Sac State’s pathway to living into its mission to truly be the capital university,” says Örn Bodvarsson, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies (SSIS).

UEI provides programs and services that enrich the Sacramento State experience and support the University community’s evolving needs. In addition to property services, such as the Julia Morgan House Event and Conference Center, UEI oversees research grants and contracts, the California Intern Network, the Hornet Bookstore, the Upper Eastside Lofts, and campus food services. – Dixie Reid

More praise for Sac State’s expansion into downtown

  • “Sacramento State has a long history of engagement in the state capital to the benefit of students and our community. By investing and locating more programs to a downtown campus, students will have the chance to gain real-world experiences and challenges that are so key to their success.” – State Sen. Richard Pan
  • “As the capital’s university, Sacramento State has proven once again its foresight and dedication to its students and the region. By bringing its students to the heart of state, county, and city governments, the downtown campus is a leap forward for fully integrating the University into every aspect of policymaking and opens wide career paths into these institutions.” – Steve Hansen, 2003 alumnus of the Capital Fellows Programs and Sacramento City Council member
  • “Sac State is clearly showing it’s the real deal as California’s capital university and a leader in public policy. Having students and faculty downtown will be a tremendous asset for the city. If students are thinking about pursuing careers in politics or policy, they will look to Sac State to access the alumni network and jobs downtown. The University’s decision to purchase the downtown property is a long-term commitment to providing our state and local policymakers with a talent pool to lead our region.” – Eric Guerra ’03 (Electrical and Electronic Engineering), MPPA ’08, president of the Sacramento State Alumni Association and a Sacramento City Council member
  • “As an enthusiastic supporter and alum of Sacramento State, I am very excited to see the expansion of the campus into downtown Sacramento. It will strengthen the University and improve access to decision-makers and the seat of government for Sacramento State students.” – Jeff Harris ’05 (Vocational Education, College of Continuing Education) and Sacramento City Council member
  • “While this move will be a huge enhancement to the vibrancy of downtown, students will be given more of an opportunity to find and attend the classes they need to graduate. Perhaps more will graduate from our great school in four years! Wouldn’t that be something?” – Azizza Davis Goines, president and CEO of the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce
  • “Downtown Sacramento is undergoing an urban renaissance where culture, business, development and, now, higher learning collide to create an energy and enthusiasm that haven’t been seen in decades. We applaud the University’s decision to consolidate a number of public policy, business, and public affairs programs into a Sac State campus in the urban core, which will help cement its role as California’s capital university. Faculty, staff, and students will have access to amenities that rival any corporate campus and will add to the vibrancy and diversity of downtown Sacramento.” – Michael Ault ’92 (Communication Studies), executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership
  • “What a wonderful addition to the downtown corridor. Education is the beginning of all great experiences, and we are excited to have a community partner such as Sac State be our neighbor here in downtown Sacramento. We look forward to the future and innovative partnerships.” – Gina N. Lujan, Hacker Lab founder and CEO
  • “Sacramento is my hometown, where I was born and raised, and where I am now raising my family. The transformation occurring in our urban core underscores the significance of Sacramento State’s newest addition to its education portfolio. As someone who was Made at Sac State, I applaud the University’s visionary leadership in creating another ‘front door’ for Sacramento State students that builds on our region’s quality workforce, which represents our region’s future.” – Pat Fong Kushida ’85 (Marketing), president and CEO of the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce
  • “This is a spectacular accomplishment for Sac State and just deepens the respect we all have for this great institution. Its impact on public affairs, already substantial because of the Center for California Studies, just got deeper and broader. Hat’s off to the whole Sac State team!”Mel Assagai, director of government affairs for Strategic Counsel
  • “Sac State’s move to establish a downtown Sacramento campus is great news for both Sac State and the city. Students and faculty at the School of Public Affairs will be located where California public policy is initiated, debated, and made. What could be more appropriate? And Sacramento will benefit from the energy the campus brings to the urban core. We at CADA could not be more pleased that Sac State chose to locate in the R Street Corridor area, which quickly has become one of downtown’s most interesting neighborhoods.” – Wendy S. Saunders, executive director of CADA (Capitol Area Development Authority)
  • “As a Sac State alumna in a downtown office with others who were Made at Sac State, I can tell you that the new downtown classroom space will make Sac State even more user-friendly. This is a great step in making it easier for professionals to continue their education and to advance their careers – and we can walk or ride our bikes there! Congratulations.” – Rebecca Thornton Sloan, director of external affairs and member services for the Sacramento Area Council of Governments 

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