The University of California, Merced, has moved a step closer to realizing its plan to build a new center in downtown Merced that will provide space for administrators and collaborations with community partners.
The UC Regents today approved the construction of the 67,400-gross-square-foot building. The $45 million project would also provide mixed-use collaborative space, conference and seminar rooms and a work café.
Administrative staff members now on campus and at various off-campus sites like the Castle Research Facility, the Promenade and the Mondo Building, will be consolidated at the new center, bringing an economic boost to downtown Merced and connecting the campus more closely with the community.
The Downtown Center project is integral to UC Merced’s 2020 Project, which is designed to expand the current campus physical framework to accommodate 10,000 students by 2020. That project is in the request-for-proposal stage, and was the subject of a lengthy workshop at the UC Board of Regents meeting earlier this week.
“While the Regents’ approval of the Downtown Center is good news, the campus still has significant other hurdles to overcome before we break ground on construction,” Vice Chancellor for Business and Administrative Services Michael Reese said. “Among them is assurance that the City of Merced will provide the necessary city services for expansion of the campus.”
Reese is optimistic that campus plans for both the Downtown Center and campus expansion will eventually move forward.
“The 2020 Project is a significant opportunity, not just for UC Merced but for the local economy,” said Reese, who cited an independent economic impact analysis that projects the overall 2020 Project will generate $1.5 billion in direct and indirect effects in Merced County alone and 8,400 new jobs.
Just as the 2020 Project is designed to bring innovative new approaches to the building of a UC campus, the Downtown Center is also unique because it uses efficient and flexible layouts suited to a 21st-century work environment. The design enhances cost efficiency by consolidating other leased space, and staff productivity by creating a more collaborative workspace.
In 2014, UC Merced paid about $630,000 for a piece of publicly auctioned land at 18th and N streets, across from the Merced Civic Center. The campus also leases space in the Parcade Building at 18th and M streets. That building will house the new Venture lab, a hub for technology transfer and entrepreneurialism opening this fall.
The Urban Land Institute, a consulting group that surveyed the campus in 2013 to make recommendations for growth, recommended that UC Merced locate a significant number of staff members at a central location. One suggested location was downtown Merced, which would strengthen the campus’s presence within the city.
The new center will bring about 370 people to the area each business day while also making room on campus for student and academic use. Space on campus is at a premium and likely will be for many years to come.
Projections call for construction on the Downtown Center to start in summer 2016 and finish a year later. The campus will maintain its other leased spaces until the center opens in fall 2017. Design plans call for a three-story building that maximizes natural light through shafts while also controlling energy use and costs by using shade covers and louvers. The entrance is being designed to complement Merced City Hall.