When students arrive to hone their English skills at a new international school in Costa Mesa, they likely won’t be greeted by ornate banisters, gold-fringed draperies, crystal chandeliers and hand-painted murals. that now make up the decor of the building.
Indeed, EF Education First, which hopes to open the English school in fall 2020, is preparing to completely renovate the property, a 6.19-acre site that was once the headquarters of Trinity Broadcasting Network.
TBN, which produces and broadcasts Christian programming, opened its Bear Street campus in 1998 with a rotunda to accommodate important guests, several small theaters to screen films and stage performances, a television studio and the tourist attraction” Via Dolorosa” – a replica of Christ. drive through Jerusalem carrying the cross to which he would be nailed, with elaborate displays and live actors recreating biblical scenes.
The network has since moved its broadcast operations to Tustin and sold the Bear Street property in 2017, calling it “obsolete.” EF now owns the site and is working to finalize plans and obtain city permits to make it a campus that can accommodate up to 1,350 international students who will come to learn or improve their English and experience American culture, Southern California style. The dormitories will accommodate 620 students and others will live off campus with local host families.
“We have found a tremendous opportunity here,” EF spokeswoman Shawna Marino said during a recent tour of the buildings and grounds.
Costa Mesa has a diverse population and has earned a reputation as a “city of the arts,” Marino said. The campus is within walking distance of restaurants and shops at The Lab Anti-Mall and South Coast Plaza, and a short bus ride from the beach.
The school will mainly offer short, intense courses for young adults; students stay an average of six to eight weeks. The drug- and alcohol-free campus will include three student dormitories arranged around the main building of 68,000 square foot classrooms, a dining hall and offices, and a central courtyard with a swimming pool, outdoor study areas and a lawn versatile recreation. Said Marin.
Founded in 1965 in Sweden, EF now has more than 600 schools and offices around the world. It offers online and in-person courses, cultural exchange and travel programs, and language training for businesses; the company has also provided language services for past Olympics and will do so for the 2022 Beijing Games, according to an EF brochure.
Transforming the mirrored walls, marble floors and statuary alcoves now absent from the Costa Mesa facility into a more utilitarian educational environment can be a tall order. But it’s something EF officials feel equal to — their San Diego campus was previously a hospital.
The school’s plans are unlikely to generate a common complaint with the development in Southern California – additional traffic – because although the average student is in their early 20s, Marino said they won’t have cars on campus and most will not have an international driving license. EF plans to provide a shuttle bus and encourage students to use public transport.
Nor will EF bring back the blazing Christmas lights that some loved, others hated, but everyone noticed, since the ownership’s TBN days. To start off on the right foot, school officials worked with neighbors, held meetings, organized a tour of the San Diego school and lowered dormitory heights to address residents’ concerns, Marino said.
James Cowell, who has lived across Bear Street from the property for 12 years, said TBN used to hold outdoor events with live bands that lasted until evening – much to their chagrin of some residents.
“I love what they’re doing for the building,” Cowell said of EF’s projects. “They’re going to be good neighbours.”
Rolf Kleiner, a resident of the Lifestyles community abutting the south side of the EF property, said he would like to see better lighting and other safety measures to protect students who will be walking on Bear Street, but he expects that the plans for the school are a great improvement to the site.
“I can’t think of a better outcome for this property,” he said.
The EF school plans are undergoing environmental review with the city. Marino said officials hope to begin construction by December and open next September.