August 3, 2014

UC Merced takes next step to expand

Six teams of experts submitted qualified bids to partner with UC Merced as it pushes to reach 10,000 students by 2020. The university wants to pick one by the end of 2015.

UC Merced released a list of the six teams of experts vying for a partnership with the university as it builds toward 10,000 students by 2020, which could have implications for growth in the city as well.

An instrumental part of reaching the goal for what the university calls the 2020 Project is to be able to accommodate the increase beyond its 6,200 enrolled. UC Merced has reeled in its enrollment growth of late, because the buildings on campus are reaching capacity.

The university plans to add new buildings by 2017.

“Without the buildings, we will not be able to expand to 10,000,” said Daniel Feitelberg, vice chancellor for planning and budget. “Our growth would be limited, we think, at about 7,000 students.”

The coming project will develop up to 1.85 million square feet of new teaching, research and residential space on the 219-acre, university-owned site that includes the existing campus. The preliminary plans call for space for academic, administrative, research, recreational and student services.

Housing facilities would add almost 2,000 beds in residence halls, suites and apartments.

Upgrades are also planned for existing parking and traffic infrastructure, as well as additions to utilities, outdoor recreation areas, open space areas, roadways, parking and landscaping.

The university will grow primarily to the south and east of the current campus, stretching as far as Bellevue Road.

Feitelberg said it’s too early in the process to tell how many local jobs will come out of all that activity. “Clearly, this project will bring jobs to Merced,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that given the magnitude of the construction.”

During the next several months, UC Merced will evaluate the qualifications, ask for proposed plans and whittle the list down further. The preferred team is expected to be picked by the end of 2015. A detailed list of the six teams can be seen on the project website, http://2020project.ucmerced.edu.

The university aims to begin construction in 2016 and see the first building completed in late 2017.

At the same time, the city of Merced is developing the Bellevue Community Plan. The plan states Bellevue “strikes a balance between certainty and flexibility” because it will put in place guidelines for development but leave room for changes in market conditions.

The city’s plan would also build a variety of housing types, as well as retail and “research and development” floor space.

Frank Quintero, the city of Merced’s economic development director, said the process is a slow one but Merced should benefit from the changes at and around UC Merced. “They (UC Merced) are definitely going to be one of our biggest economic driving forces as the 2020 plan moves ahead,” he said.

More students, faculty and staff living and spending money in Merced is good for the economy, he said, but the potential for research and development breakthroughs will pay off even more. Enterprising graduates and professors could potentially develop new technology and products in the area.

“We hope that the research and development, and the manufacturing of those products — whatever it may be — stays here in Merced County,” he said.

The Bellevue Community covers about 2.4 square miles, and is generally defined by G Street and Lake Road, Farmland Avenue and Cardella Road.

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