As readers may recall, UC Merced recently retained the Urban Land Institute to help campus leaders determine the most cost-effective alternatives for expanding the university's physical capacity during a period of ongoing financial uncertainty at the state level.
We asked ULI to consider options, both on and off campus, for accommodating our projected enrollment of 10,000 students, along with the requisite numbers of faculty and staff, over the next eight to 10 years.
Given the level of support the Merced community has lent UC Merced during the past decade and our commitment to keep you informed, I'd like to share a few of ULI's initial ideas with you.
We expect to have a final, comprehensive report from ULI in hand in the next month or two.
ULI believes we can provide the facilities needed to grow to 10,000 students without the costly infrastructure expansion (roads, water, sewer, electricity, etc.) imagined in our current Long-Range Development Plan.
We can do this through a twofold strategy of making more efficient use of the remaining buildable space on our current "golf course" footprint, and by consolidating more of our administrative and support staff in an off-campus location such as downtown Merced.
In addition, ULI believes we can drive down future development costs and enhance construction efficiency by delivering buildings concurrently and by leveraging private investment and public-private partnerships.
There are important benefits to the development strategy recommended by ULI. In addition to maximizing the use of buildable land on our current footprint, the strategy also seeks to strengthen our connection to the community.
For example, developing facilities for administrative staff and community outreach functions in the city of Merced will help invigorate the downtown economy and increase the sense of shared benefit that's been difficult to achieve at times from our remote location.
The strategies recommended by ULI, if implemented, will require some modifications to our current long-range plan, and strong collaboration with city and county leaders, the UC Office of the President and other stakeholders.
It will require the creativity, flexibility and the entrepreneurial spirit that characterized UC Merced at its founding.
But as we approach the 10th anniversary of Founders Day, which marks the initial groundbreaking for UC Merced, I'm encouraged by prospects for sustained, affordable growth for our campus consistent with our long-term mission.
We will strive to keep the community informed as plans for our next phase of growth come together in greater detail. As always, we greatly appreciate your support and look forward to becoming even closer neighbors in the years ahead.
Dorothy Leland is chancellor of UC Merced.