Living Lab construction set

The Living Lab is envisioned as a 12,000-square-foot, cutting-edge facility with 35,000 square feet of outdoor, natural features in Manzanita Canyon. The facility will be built within walking distance for thousands of students at several City Heights schools.

The Living Lab is envisioned as a 12,000-square-foot, cutting-edge facility with 35,000 square feet of outdoor, natural features in Manzanita Canyon. The facility will be built within walking distance for thousands of students at several City Heights schools.

Construction is set to begin early next year on a state-of-the-art science center at the edge of Manzanita Canyon that will include ongoing educational programs to serve some 20,000 students in City Heights annually.

The Ocean Discovery Institute announced it has wrapped up its $15 million fundraising drive to build the Living Lab, a facility that will include three laboratories, a scientist in residence, a community kitchen and a garden. Groundbreaking is being set for February.

Since January, Ocean Discovery Institute has secured nearly $2.5 million in commitments through a collaboration among private funders.

The string of recently secured private donations all started with the Walter J. & Betty C. Zable Foundation’s $1 million challenge grant in spring. Walter Zable was the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Cubic Corp., which supplies military defense equipment and automated fare collection systems for public transit systems across the world. Today, San Diego-based Cubic Corp. is a more than $1 billion engineering giant with some 8,000 workers.

The Zable Foundation donation was followed by pledges from the David C. Copley Foundation, which committed to a $750,000 grant – $250,000 of which was set up as a challenge grant; Price Philanthropies, which committed an additional $250,000 on top of its previously committed $200,000; The J.W. Sefton Foundation, which also committed $250,000; and Cox Communications and the Cox Cares Foundation, which both committed $50,000.

The final commitment, totaling $150,000, came from the state Coastal Conservancy.

“We are so energized by this game-changing collaboration,” said Shara Fisler, executive director of Ocean Discovery Institute. “A year ago, we were struggling to gain traction with this campaign. It took one courageous funder to step forward, opening the floodgates for so many others.”

The Living Lab is planned as a 12,000-square-foot, cutting-edge facility with 35,000 square feet of outdoor, natural features in Manzanita Canyon. The facility will be built within walking distance for thousands of students at several City Heights schools. Ocean Discovery Institute envisions the center as a place where scientists from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and other partners can conduct research alongside students and where families can learn about science and conservation.

“We really had this vision that we could reach an entire community through science,” Fisler told KPBS. “That was going to be really important to not only engage a young person as an individual in becoming a scientific leader, but that they need their family’s support and a community of support around them.”