The University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources program, which currently has office space in six different buildings scattered around Davis, will bring some 150 staff members together under one roof next week.
And the program’s new home is a repurposed building on Second Street that originally opened in August 2000 as the Davis Indoor Sports Center (DISC) — a 33,400-square-foot complex that featured a big indoor rink for inline skating and hockey.
That building has now been reborn as a 42,000-square-foot project office building for UC’s ANR. The additional 9,000 square feet take the form of a handsome set of downstairs offices on the former rink site, plus an upstairs mezzanine offering a second floor of work space. The mezzanine is filled with open-topped cubicles.
Both upstairs and downstairs were designed to allow natural light from the skylights in the roof to flow into the new work spaces, which feature plenty of glass that lets the sunlight shine through.
For the ANR program — a statewide entity that operates under the UC Office of the President in Oakland, rather than UC Davis — the move represents an opportunity to bring its 4-H programs, Master Gardeners, services to county ag officers, integrated pest management and more together in a single location.
“Davis, as a community, has a historic foundation in agriculture and science, and that is what we bring,” said Jan Corlett, chief of staff for the vice president of the University of California. “And converting a hockey rink into an office building has been very intriguing — even unique.”
Corlett has been extensively involved with planning and construction at the site for months. The project is also an example of the community’s penchant for finding creative ways to reuse existing buildings.
Another example would be the Wyatt Pavilion at UC Davis, which now hosts plays and concerts; Wyatt was originally a cow barn.
Looking at what will now be known as the UC ANR Building, you probably wouldn’t guess its original purpose. There are conference rooms bearing California place names like Sierra, Klamath, Modoc and Mojave. The downstairs features a color scheme of muted, earthy green and gold, with ginkgo-leaf patterns in both the carpet and translucent glass. The upstairs features a gentle combination of sky-and-water blue (with gold highlights and grassy imagery).
Adjustable ergonomic desks and chairs are in each work space, and beautifully weathered, reclaimed barn wood lends a rustic touch in several locations. The water fountains are designed so that employees and visitors can refill their reusable containers (there’s even a little counter indicating how many plastic water bottles have been avoided as a result). Sound engineers added a bit of extra material beneath the carpet, so that when a train goes by on the other side of Second Street, you barely hear it.
The building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system — originally designed to cool down sweaty kids as they raced ’round the rink — has been retooled to serve two levels of adult workers, who probably won’t get quite as physical as the skaters of yore. There’s a shower available for those who bike to work, and space for a quartet of “office bikes” that can be borrowed by staff for short trips.
And there’s a lactation room, as well as a special restroom with a diaper changing station, available for use by dads or moms, and adults who need a private space to change outfits.
The project’s “green” features qualify it for a LEED certification for commercial interiors.
The building has a complex history. Local entrepreneur Sam Harrison built it in 2000, and the Davis Indoor Sports Center was run by his son Jeff. But business at DISC dropped off sharply after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. DISC never really regained the lost momentum, and closed after seven years.
The south portion of the building was sold to the Explorit Science Center, but when the state budget crisis triggered a big decline in the number of school field trips, Explorit had to give up the space. The county library system leased the old skate rink for about two years when the regular library building on East 14th Street was closed for renovation and expansion, but that lease concluded when the library returned to its regular home.
A church group and a gymnastics club considered the site, but available parking and conversion costs proved problematic.
When the ANR program looked at the building, John Buckel of Capital Partners — a firm that had teamed with Harrison to find a new use for the building — came up with the idea of adding the office/mezzanine structure in the rink area.
“A stroke of genius,” said Corlett.
Harrison said a series of face-to-face meetings involving the University of California, city government, the developer and realtor “cut through the red tape.” Once the project was approved by all involved, construction began on April 2, and the building is now virtually complete.
“By repurposing a facility that was not being used, it was a very good deal for the university — a better deal than if they had done new ‘ground-up’ construction,” said Jim Gray, a partner with Cassidy Turley commercial real estate, who played a role in the deal.
“And ANR combines education, community service and the university extension aspect. These folks are knowledge workers, with roots in agriculture. You can’t have a better Davis success story than that.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffHudsonDE