Daily Pilot: Vanguard undergoes perimeter makeover, a new look for the county’s oldest university

After more than 50 years in Costa Mesa, Vanguard University — the oldest four-year college in Orange County — is getting a makeover designed to enhance campus security and give the perimeter a little more curb appeal.

Those who’ve had occasion to walk or drive by the campus, on the corner of Fair Drive and Newport Boulevard, may have seen work crews breaking ground in late November in preparation for the installation of 1,130-foot security fence and monument sign, along with newly paved sidewalks.

The work is part of a $1.8-million project defined in the first master plan for the institution, which opened in 1920 as Southern California Bible School and earned its charter from the state to grant degrees in 1939.

Adopted in 2019, the document is intended to cast the vision of what Vanguard may become over the next 30 years, President Michael Beals said Thursday.

“We were coming up on 100 years [of operation] and we’d never had a master plan,” said Beals, recalling seven public hearings with the city council and planning commission. “This project is really embedded in and is the result of the city-approved master plan.”

Officials established the Landmark Campaign to raise the final $540,000 needed to fund the work and created a tagline that would come to define the mission behind the project: to make Vanguard more beautiful, known and secure.

To that end, construction crews removed 68 trees, predominately Indian laurel ficus trees that had been planted decades earlier too closely to one another and were determined to be suffering from “uncorrectable structural weaknesses,” according to an arborist’s report.

David Vazquez, Vanguard’s senior director of external relations, said those trees will be replaced with 21 new Brisbane box trees that will be set into a landscaped area along the fence and sidewalk, currently closed to foot traffic.

“Our hope is it’s going to create a new lush environment for pedestrians, especially those walking along Fair Drive,” he said Thursday.

The security fence, which will range in height from 4 feet to 7 feet, was designed to reduce the number of access points onto the private property so traffic can be better managed.

Beals said the idea of the fence, and a 50-by-10-foot monument sign bearing the school’s name, is to define the perimeter of the campus more clearly.

“We want to create an environment of safety and confidence for our students and for anyone who comes on campus, he added. “There’s not going to be a guard shack or anything — it will have an open and welcoming look.”

If all goes well, the work could be completed by early to mid-March. Officials anticipate hosting a community event to celebrate the accomplishment of a project that will not only spruce up the Vanguard campus, but the entire vicinity.

“We’re creating a space that is going to have trees and lush plants,” Beals said. “I think it’s going to be wonderful.”

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