By: Kevin Huber, President and CEO
Back when we were converting University Park from its previous life as a state hospital to its new life as a beautiful home for education and businesses, we ran into a stumbling block. Looking back, we’re so glad we did. That stumbling block led to one of University Park’s signature features: the lake.
When we took over University Park, the site was home to a lot of institutional buildings, including a central steam plant located where the lake is now located. Back before electric heat and air, people kept buildings comfortable by pushing the heat created by the steam plant into tunnels that ran underground to different buildings. Part of the work to convert the state hospital to the campus it is today was to decommission and demolish the steam plant.
As we developed the campus, we worked with engineers who told us that the City of Stockton storm drain system in the streets adjacent to University Park was not sized to handle peak flows during major storm events — the city system just couldn’t handle that much water. We’d need to find a way to detain that water for a period of time until it could be metered out in a way that the system could handle it.
The initial engineering solution was an underground tank, which then limited what we could put over top of it. Other than landscaping which we have to pay to maintain, the other practical solution was a parking lot. While practical, it seemed too cold and hard of a feature in the middle of this beautiful campus. Something told me we could do better for the project and the community. I asked the engineers if we created a lake, would it solve our problem? They agreed it would.
The idea also made a lot of sense from a historical standpoint. Lakes have been signature features of Grupe developments over the years, so creating one at University Park would be a sign of consistency. The lake also really fit our core value of sustainability and our dedication to creating aesthetically pleasing developments.
The lake is actually made of two bodies of water that serve key purposes. There’s a weir structure that allows water from the smaller lake to spill into the larger lake, and then if needed, into the city system. Here’s how it works: When it storms, water flows into the smaller lake first and is filtered through a diatomaceous earth system that cleans the water. The cleaner water then spills into the larger lake where additional settling of sediments can occur. Finally, if the level of the larger lake gets too high, the water then goes into the city’s storm drain system.
The bridge that spans the two lakes was built using the same stone that we used on the pump station below the water tower, which is one of the original features on the property. We gave the banks of the lake a gentle, natural slope instead of a hard edge. We tried to get the little details right so the lake would look like it had always been there.
The lake has been a big plus for our tenants. It’s peaceful, it’s serene, it’s calming — all things not typically associated with office parks. It’s been a “wow” feature for new tenants over the years, especially for those in the medical field. We knew that medical tenants would be a key portion of University Park’s business, so we purposefully positioned them near the lake. Think about the people who have to receive treatment every week, like those on dialysis. Instead of looking out at a cold parking lot, they can take in a bit of nature. The people who drove them to their appointments can read a book next to the water, or take a stroll around the lake and encounter the rose garden and other artwork we’ve created on the campus. The lake isn’t just beautiful; it plays a part in healing.
We have just one more building pad that overlooks the lake, plus two available historic buildings — Sequoia Hall, which is 24,000 square feet, and the Eucalyptus Building, which is 17,000 square feet — all with prime views of the lake. We’re excited to find the perfect tenants for these spaces.
At Grupe Huber, we like to say that we don’t build projects, we build communities. When I see employees of our tenants and local families walking around the lake, unaware that it didn’t exist a generation ago, I know we’ve hit the mark by creating a special place for them. I hope our tenants and neighbors get a lot of pleasure from the lake and build memories of feeding the ducks, watching the turtles, or picnicking along its banks. I’m especially grateful for the lake now, during this season of COVID, when so many of us have been stuck at home. The lake is a bright spot in my day, and I’m grateful it can be the same for so many others.