Affordable student housing, an additional restaurant run by the The Collins College of Hospitality Management, a laboratory research space or experimental land for the Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture — these are just some of the endless possibilities that can come out of redeveloping the university’s Lanterman Developmental Center. 

Over 100 buildings on the former Lanterman Developmental Center were built is the 1920s and the 1960s and many need restoration. (Courtesy of Theresa Navar-Rodriguez)

In 2018, President Soraya M. Coley appointed the Lanterman Advisory Committee, which is comprised of Benjamin F. Quillian, co-chair for the project, Danielle Manning, also a co-chair, Associated Students Inc. President Jennifer Greenberg, and representatives of the university’s colleges and various centers on campus, specifically for the site’s redevelopment. 

Co-chair and special advisor to the president Benjamin F. Quillian said he is not intimidated by the approximately 300-acre blank slate that is the Lanterman site, as it gives the committee more to work with.

The site is located between Valley Boulevard and North Diamond Bar Boulevard next to CPP’s Spadra Farm and it is also referred to as Campus South on the university’s maps. 

“In all my years this is probably the most exciting project I’ve ever been a part of,” Quillian said. The committee is partnering with developers FivePoint Holdings, LLC in an estimated 20-year project that will be paid for by the developer, according to Quillian.

Quillian said the project won’t be an easy one. 

“Over 100 buildings were built in the 1920s and the 1960s and it needs a lot of work,” Quillian said. “The infrastructure is bad. There is lead, asbestos [and] cast iron bars.”

According to Quillian, President Coley did not want to pull money from the university’s funds in order to pay for the costs of redeveloping the site. 

Since it opened as a center for individuals with developmental disabilities in 1927, the Lanterman Developmental Center has carried a lot of history with it, until it shut down in 2015. 

The center was handed down to Cal Poly Pomona in July of that same year, according to California’s Department of Developmental Services. Quillian said because it is a historical site, one of the challenges in redeveloping the land is determining what must be historically preserved and what can be rebuilt, which the university will work out by meeting with a state historic preservation officer. For some time now, CPP has rented the site for filming, which generates revenue. According to the website Curbed L.A., it has been rented for the filming of Netflix show “Glow,” which is famous for re-creating Los Angeles in the ‘80s. The show began filming at the site in 2017. Public access to the site is not that easy. 

“They’ve [university officials] been very reluctant to have a lot of people go because we have movies being filmed now,” Quillian said. “The movie industry loves the Lanterman site because they don’t have to worry about real traffic or pedestrians.”

As the site’s redevelopment process begins, the project is meant to generate revenue for the university and is slated to be a destination that benefits Pomona, the university and nearby communities. There are five general categories for development plans: creating affordable housing, entertainment and recreational activities for the town, mobility and transportation, academic support, and a space for colleges on campus to do research, or a place that uses SMART technology (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology), defined by academic publishing company IGI Global, which would showcase various technological advancements. Third-year transfer student and civil engineering major Joash Sigamoney said he noticed the university could reduce its costs by generating clean energy, and the Lanterman redevelopment could be the perfect opportunity. 

“I think that having some facilities that indirectly help the students, that would be just as beneficial as having parking and things like that,” Sigamoney said.  

He said he has also noticed a need for more grocery options for students, as the current ones are expensive.

“The Farm Store has some good stuff, but it’s expensive and it’s very niche,” he said.   

Some students said they believe housing insecurity goes unnoticed and can be addressed by creating affordable housing at the Lanterman site. Sarah Sandoval, a third-year transfer student and English major, said she believes affordable student housing seems like a useful idea.

“Housing instability is like a big thing here that’s kind of on the low,” Sandoval said. 

Nothing has been set in stone yet and the university will hold meetings with the campus community as well as with nearby cities to gather the community’s input on the project. Quillian said that sometimes he finds it difficult keeping community members informed. 

“Our main challenge will be to keep the process transparent and interact with the community,” he said. 

He already visited city council meetings announcing the possibilities to the community and they were excited. 

Quillian said he hopes the redevelopment project surpasses everyone’s expectations and can be resourceful to the community. 

“Hopefully we can get it down right the first time and it can be something we look back at and can be proud of in the next 20 years,” Quillian said. 

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