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All Systems Go for UC Merced 2020 Project

August 24, 2016

A rendering shows several new buildings that are part of the 2020 Project with existing campus facilities in the backgroundUC Merced’s ambitious plans for the second major phase of campus development, known as the 2020 Project, are moving rapidly ahead after receiving final approval this summer from the UC Board of Regents.

The project, the largest in the UC system, will nearly double the capacity of the campus by 2020 and support enrollment growth to 10,000 students by the 2021-22 academic year.

Construction is scheduled to begin Oct. 14 with a groundbreaking ceremony hosted by Chancellor Dorothy Leland. UC President Janet Napolitano, members of the UC Board of Regents and numerous state and local officials are expected to attend the event, which will be open to the campus community and the public.

“This is a major step forward for UC Merced, the UC system and the growing numbers of talented students throughout California who want and deserve a UC education,” Leland said after the regents unanimously approved the project design and funding requirements July 21.

The project will add approximately 1.2 million gross square feet of teaching, research, residential and student-life facilities adjacent to the current campus, just south of Little Lake. Unlike traditional UC construction projects, it will be built as a single fast-track development by a single developer, Plenary Properties Merced (PPM), under a long-term contract that includes design, construction, partial financing, operation and maintenance of the facilities.

PPM’s creative design “blends beautifully with our existing campus, facilitates our multidisciplinary teaching and research methods and provides flexibility for future changes in building usage,” Leland said upon announcing the winning bidder in June.

Design Blends Old and New

The design will create a mixed-use, living-learning environment that facilitates routine interaction among faculty members, staff members and students. Wet and dry labs, state-of-the-art classrooms, a competition-sized swimming pool, a new dining facility and residential space for 1,700 students will be among the project’s amenities. Artist renderings, design details and a construction timeline of the new development can be viewed on the 2020 Project website.

Since the July regents meeting, Leland has delivered several presentations about the project to campus community members and the public. Last week, she addressed the Merced County Board of Supervisors and Merced City Council during their respective meetings. County and city officials expressed their support for the university and the expansion project.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what (UC Merced) is doing,” said Merced Councilman Joshua Pedrozo, who attended the July regents meeting and spoke on behalf of the campus.

During her presentations, Leland has assured audiences of plans to keep them informed of the project’s progress and to minimize disruptions as much as possible.

The approval of the 2020 Project culminates more than three years of planning and “creative reimagination” of the traditional UC development process, Leland said. Following the devastating recession of 2008-09, a time when the state was running a massive budget deficit, Leland commissioned a nonprofit land-use firm, the Urban Land Institute, to help devise a strategy for expansion that would make use of private funding and expertise.

The resulting recommendations led to the first public-private partnership (P3) ever proposed for the large-scale expansion of a UC campus.

“UC Merced, the youngest campus in our system, is poised to become a model for our other campuses as we look for the most efficient ways to construct, operate and maintain facilities that enable us to pursue our teaching, research and public-service missions,” UC President Napolitano said.

Over the next four years, the project is expected to generate $1.9 billion in economic investment in the San Joaquin Valley, mostly in the form of construction jobs, services and indirect “ripple effects.” Statewide, the total is estimated at $2.4 billion.