MERCED, CA — The University of California, Merced campus today reached another milestone with the finalization of the acquisition of 7,030 acres by the University from the Virginia Smith Trust for its campus site. The transaction included provision of a $2 million endowment corpus to fund Merced-area scholarships for higher education administered by the Trust.
At the same time, a partnership created by the University and the Virginia Smith Trust acquired an additional 1,240 acres from local rancher John Myers for a planned campus community that is slated to be located immediately south of the campus.
The two transactions totaled $15 million, and were achieved utilizing portions of gift funds of more than $12 million to the University of California, Merced from a private foundation, plus a loan of $3.5 million from the University.
In March 2001, the Packard Foundation committed more than $12 million to assist the University in acquiring the campus site and creating a natural reserve. Portions of these funds were applied to the transactions completed.
UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey hailed the acquisition of the Trust property by the University, saying: “This acquisition is a watershed moment in the realization of the UC Merced campus. We are very grateful to the Virginia Smith Trust for its efforts and we are particularly grateful to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for this assistance.”
Virginia Smith Trust Land Acquisition by UC
The Virginia Smith Trust [VST] property acquisition and related activities involved $10 million in funds. In the acquisition, $8.5 million was used to defease final debt on a golf course parcel operated by the VST and related obligations. Additionally, $1.5 million of the Packard gift to UC was committed to the purchase of the Myers property [described below] on behalf of the VST.
In addition, $2 million from the Packard Foundation gift was contributed as an endowment, earnings from which will be available to the VST for higher education scholarship awards for Merced-area students. The VST is a non-profit, educational support organization.
Of the 7,030 acres purchased by the University from the Trust, 2,000 acres are being designated as the main campus site, a campus land reserve and a campus natural preserve. The main campus site will accommodate the academic buildings, student and faculty housing, recreation areas, dining facilities, support services and parking. The campus land reserve (approx. 340 acres) will be set aside for unforeseeable future needs, while the 750-acre campus natural reserve will be maintained permanently in an undeveloped state and be used as a resource for scientific research. The remaining 5,030 acres will be conserved in perpetuity as a natural resource preserve.
As part of the development of the new campus, more than 22,000 acres [approximately 34 square miles] of natural habitat in eastern Merced County have been preserved.
Myers Property Acquisition by UC and Virginia Smith Trust
In the second transaction, a California Limited Liability Company [LLC], called the University Land Company, purchased 1,240 acres directly to the south of the campus site from John Myers. The University Land Company is a 50-50 partnership of the University and the Virginia Smith Trust, and the company will oversee development of the university community.
Myers is a trustee of the 116-member UC Merced Foundation. Myers received $5 million, which represents the appraised value of the land. The funds for this purchase were committed from the following resources: $1.5 million of the Packard Foundation gift was applied to the transaction; an additional $3.5 million was supplied in the form of a loan from the University of California to the LLC. The loan will bear interest and be repaid by the LLC as a priority from future excess revenues.
The University has pledged that one of the major tenets of the new community development venture will be to encourage “smart growth” by providing effective planning to limit campus sprawl and to encourage integration of campus and community life.
Speaking about the acquisitions, Merced attorney Ken Robbins, who represents the Trust, said: “Children of the region will benefit directly from these purchases. Part of the revenue generated will establish more scholarships for local area high school students, thus increasing their access to higher education.”