Fast-growing UC Merced will double in size by 2020

The state’s Board of Regents has approved a $1.34 billion plan that would add nearly 1.2 million sf of new space.

July 22, 2016 |

UC Merced's campus will greatly expand over the next four years, as the state's Board of Regents has approved a design and construction plan that would allow the 11-year-old university to increase its enrollment by nearly 50%. Image: Courtesy UC Merced

The University of California Board of Regents has unanimously approved an expansion of UC Merced that will nearly double that campus’ physical capacity by 2020 to facilitate enrollment to 10,000 students, up from 6,700 today.

UC Merced opened in the San Joaquin Valley in 2005, making it the first new campus in the University of California system in four decades. In recent years its application growth rate has been double the UC system’s average.

The Regents approval should lead to a formal project agreement next month, with groundbreaking scheduled for October. The university has entered into an “availability-payment concession,” a kind of private-public partnership, with Plenary Properties Merced, which was named development partner in June. Plenary will be responsible for design, construction, operations, maintenance, and partial financing of all new facilities over the 39-year term of the contract.

Upon expiration of the contract, UC Merced will assume maintenance of the buildings and land it will own.

As part of this agreement Plenary increased its investment in design and construction by $204 million. UC financing contribution will be $600 million. The total budget for this project’s design and construction is now $1.338 billion, up from the previously approved $1.142 billion.

The expansion will add about 1.2 million gross sf (790,000 of assignable square footage) of teaching, research, residential, and student-support facilities adjacent to the existing campus. The assignable space is less than the 918,000 sf originally planned, as UC Merced is emphasizing interdisciplinary learning and research, and requires a more flexible and efficient design for its future needs.

Design adjustments also allowed UC Merced to lower its financial commitment by nearly $9 million.

The first buildings should be completed by 2018. Webcor Construction is the general contractor. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the lead campus planner. And Johnson Controls is the project’s lead operations and management firm.

This phase of UC Merced’s 2020 Project Master Plan includes state-of-the-art research labs arranged around a new quadrangle and a multifunctional dining facility. The plan also calls for 1,700 beds, as well as classrooms, recreation fields, and a competition pool.

The expansion is projected to create more than 12,000 construction jobs, and produce a one-time statewide economic benefit of $2.4 billion, of which $1.9 billion should benefit the region alone.

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