The University of California, Merced, today received approval from the UC Board of Regents’ Committee on Grounds and Buildings of an amendment to its development plan that will allow more rapid and cost-efficient construction of campus facilities through 2020. (Full board approval is anticipated on May 16.)
The newest UC campus, opened in 2005 with 875 students, said the amendment is a vital step in its efforts to accommodate rapid growth in enrollment, which is expected to reach 10,000 students within the next eight to 10 years. Current enrollment is 5,760.
“The approval of the amendment to our Long Range Development Plan will give us much greater flexibility in designing, building and financing excellent facilities for the next phase of growth,” said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland. “With student applications hitting new records each year, we need to add physical capacity quickly and cost-effectively to ensure as many qualified students as possible can be admitted.”
Leland noted that additional board approvals of funding approaches, project-delivery methods and participating contractors will be required in the coming months as the university’s revised plans take shape. She also cautioned that levels of state funding for the project remain uncertain and could affect development proposals and completion schedules.
“We are deeply gratified that the Board of Regents continues to show strong support for our development goals,” she said, “and look forward to their guidance and support as we move rapidly through the revision, approval and funding processes.”
The amendment specifies that the amount of land needed for the next phase of construction will be reduced from 355 acres to 219 acres, including the 104-acre “golf course” plot on which the campus sits. The change to a smaller footprint will allow the university to avoid major infrastructure-development costs anticipated in its initial plan.
The campus plans for the next phase of construction to be built as an integrated, master-planned development. Buildings will be designed as mixed-use facilities and built in clusters, rather than single-use facilities built one at a time, to save development time and project costs.
Taller, more densely placed buildings may also be considered, while some of the existing site, such as surface parking lots, may be reconfigured or reclaimed for construction to ensure the best possible use of buildable land.
The amendment pertains only to the next phase of development through 2020, known as the “2020 Project.” Recommendations contained in the amendment were developed in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit land-use planning firm retained by the university last fall, and were strongly supported by the UC Office of the President.
Other recommendations of the institute, including consolidating most administrative operations in one or more off-campus locations, are currently under review by senior campus leadership.
“Our next major goal is to reach 10,000 students by the end of this decade,” Leland said. “That is a size that will allow us to achieve distinction in a number of academic fields and research programs and become largely self-sustaining financially.
Because the changes fall within the scope of the university’s previously approved development plan, additional authorizations from government authorities will not be needed, Leland said.
UC Merced opened in 2005 as the first new UC campus in 40 years and the first research university of the 21st century. Enrollment has grown rapidly, reflecting strong demand from students in the San Joaquin Valley and throughout the state. The campus has the largest percentage of first-generation college students, students from low-income families and students from underrepresented ethnic groups in the 10-campus UC system.
The university has won numerous awards for sustainable design and construction and is the only campus in the country to have earned LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for every one of its buildings. When fully developed, it is expected to enroll some 25,000 students in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines.