Report offers UC Merced growth ideas

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 8, 2013 

— UC Merced officials are reviewing consultant recommendations for the most cost-effective way for the university to continue to expand, given the state's financial challenges.

UC Merced officials recently received a report compiled by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute. The university began working with the institute in the fall, and it paid about $125,000 for the group to assist with exploration of cost-effective alternatives for the next phase of the campus's capital development.

"The next step is to review each of the recommendations that they made and to decide which of those we are going to purse and the timeline for doing it," said Chancellor Dorothy Leland on Tuesday.

All of the recommendations are important, Leland said, but the most important is one the university is already exploring -- to build to serve 10,000 students without going beyond the current "golf course footprint," which consists of 104 acres.

The campus's goal, part of its 2009 long-range development plan, is to reach an enrollment of 10,000 within eight to 10 years. That plan eventually calls for growth to 25,000 students and campus development of 810 acres.

Leland said building beyond the current footprint would require up to a half-billion dollars in infrastructure -- money the state can't afford.

As a result, to accommodate 10,000 students without the campus expanding beyond the 104 acres, university officials would have to rethink how to use some of the space on campus.

For example, Leland said, officials could decide to build parking garages, put parking on top or underneath buildings, or put parking off site. The university also could move more administrative staff to a central location off campus.

More than 300 UC Merced employees work off campus at four sites: Castle Commerce Center in Atwater, the Mondo building in downtown Merced, the promenade area in north Merced and office space in Fresno.

With an enrollment of 10,000 students, the number of employees working off campus could double, Leland said.

University officials could have news on how they are going to move forward with that recommendation in the next month or month and a half, Leland said. They can move quicker with certain recommendations, but no decisions have been made at this point.

Another recommendation that was especially important for Leland was to make sure the university and the community continue to strengthen their relationship, she said.

"A number of people perceived the isolation of the university from the community, in part due to to our physical location and in part due to our inability to hold community events because of space shortage," she said. "Right now, we just lack the physical capacity."

But that is something that could change as UC Merced develops a better presence downtown and more space becomes available on campus, she said.

There are some recommendations that would require input from the community, and others would be made by UC Merced officials and the UC Board of Regents, Leland said.

Leland said officials were satisfied with the report and that it was well worth the cost, given the credibility and reputation of the team at the Urban Land Institute.

"We will be better able to move forward on key recommendations than we would have otherwise," she said.

Officials from the Urban Land Institute were not available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.


AT A GLANCE

To view a copy of the full report, visit http://chancellor.ucmerced.edu/content/release-urban-land-institute-report.

STEP 1: Get real estate expertise

STEP 2: Solve the infrastructure problem

STEP 3: Develop a strategic plan for the brand

STEP 4: Identify immediate building projects

STEP 5: Find money

STEP 6: Evaluate each project using the guiding principles

STEP 7: Build

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