Skip to content

Topping Off Marks Major Milestone in 2020 Project

May 7, 2019
Chancellor Leland signs her name alongside UC Merced students at the final topping off of the Merced 2020 Project. The three phase project is set to be complete in fall 2020.

It is one of the largest and, arguably, most complex social infrastructure projects in the nation. Now, every building in the award-winning Merced 2020 Project is completely topped off.

Chancellor Leland, UC Merced senior leadership and members of Webcor and Plenary — the project’s construction and development partners — signed the final beam that will be placed on the Student Wellness and Counseling Center building on Tuesday. The building is part of the third delivery phase of the project, set to open in fall 2020.

Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Mike McLeod says the topping off is a tremendous milestone for the $1.3 billion project that broke ground in 2016. Since the project consists of 13 buildings and will double the physical size of the university, McLeod says the placing of the last beam of all the 2020 buildings carries special significance.

“It’s an important milestone,” McLeod says. “It’s not just getting here and getting the last structural component in place; it’s being here and having a successful project at this point. Three years ago, 2020 looked so far in the future. So, this is a realization that we are going to complete it and it is successful.”

Though this project has been a success for the university, it has also benefitted the city of Merced and San Joaquin Valley. From the time the project began construction in July 2016 through December 2018, 82 percent of the hours worked on the project were by workers from the San Joaquin Valley.

Chancellor Leland and others look on as the final beam of the 2020 Project is raised.
Chancellor Leland, students and staff at UC Merced took part in the topping off of the Merced 2020 Project.

Additional statistics about the project include:

  • 80,000 cubic yards of concrete — all sourced from the Valley, mainly from Merced — have been used in the project. That is the equivalent to 10,000 trucks.
  • More than 16 million pounds of reinforced steel has been used, which is the equivalent to one-third of what the Hoover Dam uses.
  • The lower level slabs for some of the research buildings are more than six feet thick.

Though the project has been put together at a rapid pace, a dedication to sustainability has been at the forefront of construction. Every building is, or will be, at least LEED Gold certified. UC Merced is the only institution in the nation to have every building earn LEED certification.

Webcor led the design-build construction process and have made the project a learning laboratory for UC Merced business and engineering students. Several students have been hired after graduating after serving as interns on the project.

Plenary Group has served as the financial adviser and equity investor in the Merced 2020 Project. This project is the first in the UC system to use a single private development team for a multi-year, multi-building project of this magnitude.

“Reaching the topping off milestone puts us one step closer to delivering this world-class campus development project,” Executive Chairman of Plenary Concessions Dale Bonner says. “We should all take a moment to recognize UC Merced, the project team and the local community, whose hard work, dedication and collaboration have made the Merced 2020 Project such an incredible success.”