Classrooms have been set up inside of the former Day Spa in preparation for when Huntington University, the Arizona Center for Digital Media Arts, opens its doors in the West Valley on Aug. 29. (Photo courtesy of NAI Horizon)

From a day spa with lots of chandeliers and massage tables to a 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art liberal arts university, the transformation is complete at 8353 W. Mariners Way in Peoria, Ariz.

Huntington University, the Arizona Center for Digital Media Arts, opens its doors in the West Valley on Aug. 29. School and city officials celebrated with a ceremonial ribbon cutting this week.

NAI Horizon Vice President Troy Giammarco and Associate Nathan Pancrazi represented Glenwood Development in purchasing the property and Huntington University in its long-term lease of the former Dolce Salon & Spa at Peoria’s P83 entertainment district. It was one of the largest lease deals in Peoria this year.

HU, Peoria’s first stand-alone university, will offer four-year BA and BS degrees in digital media arts. The repurposed, three-story building features two studios, a control room, a screening room, a 50-seat theater, editing labs, a student lounge, faculty offices, and computer media labs.

“The biggest challenge was to take the school’s vision and get the board, the new owner, the school, the city and the contractors and everyone involved to see that this was the right place to be,” Giammarco said. “It’s next to the movie theater, next to the City of Peoria’s entertainment district, and next to the (San Diego and Seattle spring training) fields in which the students can do outdoor shooting. They can also have a collaborative relationship with the Harkins Theater.”

After an Economic Development Agreement (EDA) was secured with the City of Peoria in 2015, the NAI team and school officials narrowed a list of 24 potential sites to six.

Huntington University is right in the middle of Peoria's P83 District. (Photo courtesy of NAI Horizon)
Huntington University is right in the middle of Peoria’s P83 District. (Photo courtesy of NAI Horizon)

“Troy was instrumental in bringing us options and personally walking us through this building and envisioning what was possible,” said HU Director of Operations Jeff Berggren. “We looked at about six places and had a number of options. Picking P83 was a win-win situation for the school and the City of Peoria. It’s a great facility. What’s neat about this space is that we were able to repurpose a lot. We did have to move some walls, but overall we were able to repurpose.”

HU has 25 students enrolled for the fall semester, and will be adding an additional 50 for the spring 2017 semester. With a year to recruit, they would like to see 100 next fall. Associate Dean of Arts Lance Clark said the goal is for 350 to 400 students in the next two to four years.

“We want to keep our millennials here and be innovative here,” Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat said. “Huntington University will provide ways to help them be entrepreneurs and use that knowledge to create their future.”

The Indiana-based university will offer curriculum in film production, broadcast fusion media, and graphic design.

“The greatest satisfaction is getting a sense about this, then seeing everyone finally clutching the vision and believing it and seeing it finished,” Giammarco said. “I’d like to think that as commercial brokers, we are the ultimate recyclers. We’ve taken something that was lost. It was a spa that never was going to do well. We’ve turned it into a place of higher education with a faith-based college and are helping to revitalize this area for the city of Peoria, the residents, the students, and everyone else involved.”