Westmont College is continuing to expand its presence in downtown Santa Barbara — a move meant to foster community and connection between the private liberal arts school and the city.
Thanks to a donation from Celeste and Robert White last year, Westmont was able to purchase a four-story building at 29 W. Anapamu St. The building is nestled directly across the street from its Westmont Downtown headquarters at 26 W. Anapamu St.
Official plans and programs for the building are still in the works, but college leaders said they hope to have it ready by the fall of 2023.
The possibilities for the new building are endless, from expanding health care and film studies to adding general-purpose spaces to be utilized by both Westmont and the Santa Barbara community to potentially adding housing options, Rick Ostrander, the executive director of the Westmont Downtown program, said.
“Generally, for the new building, we want to develop programs that will be academic excellence with a liberal arts foundation,” Dr. Ostrander told the News-Press. “Along with that, we want to use the new building for community engagement and to benefit the Santa Barbara community since our main campus is over the ridge, so to speak, in Montecito. It gives us an opportunity for more direct connection to organizations and people in the downtown Santa Barbara community.”
Adding the building will also give Westmont the ability to up its enrollment without increasing the number of students on its main campus which is capped at 1,200.
“I’m proud to expand enrollment in ways that we’ve never conceived of before in terms of having more students in Santa Barbara but not on the main campus,” Westmont President Gayle D. Beebe said in an interview.
The donation and new building “allowed us to think about how we can expand the enrollment of the college, expand the regional influence of the college, and do it within the same vicinity of our main campus,” Dr. Beebe said.
Westmont already offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at the existing downtown campus. The new building could expand health profession programs as well as space for media and film studios. Dr. Ostrander said the school is also considering developing meeting areas that could be utilized by the public.
“We do believe that as a college, it’s important that the college itself is a member of the community, and we want to graduate students who are committed to what we refer to as the common good or benefiting society in some ways — and not just in the theoretical sense, but in a practical way,” Dr. Ostrander said.
“We’ve seen in recent decades — and many people have spoken to the erosion of these common bonds in communities — and we believe it’s important to equip students to be able to be involved in their communities and benefit those in a variety of ways,” he added. “That’s not the main purpose of the downtown building, but we do hope it can provide that as well.”
Last fall, Westmont announced it received two major donations totaling more than $15 million.
Ed and Mollie Miller gave the college $8.2 million to support the Paul Raymond Miller Scholarship Endowment, named in honor of Mr. Miller’s father and established 35 years prior.
The school also received $7.25 million from the Whites, which gave Westmont the ability to purchase the 29 W. Anapamu St. building. The facility is to be named the “Keith Building” in honor of alumna Ms. White’s father, Ed Keith.
“I’m so grateful for Celeste’s service as a board member. She demonstrates her deep and abiding loyalty and commitment to the college in numerous ways,” Dr. Beebe said at the time. “For example, all four of their children attended Westmont. In addition, Robert has been a great partner with Celeste in embracing all things Westmont. Together they have given generously and cared deeply about the college’s life and mission.”
Planning — including obtaining city approval when needed — and fundraising efforts for the new building are ongoing.