Karen Turcios’ time with UC Merced mirrored the expansion and goals of the campus since it opened 13 years ago.
Turcios entered the university as a freshman in 2012, when there was just one dining hall on campus.
Four years later, she graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and was hired by Webcor, a commercial contractor, as the project manager of “The Pavilion,” the campus’ newest dining hall.
“It was a sense of pride,” Turcios said Thursday during a lighting celebration of the construction of the Pavilion and two student housing buildings, built in the first phase of the university’s $1.33 billion 2020 Project.
Turcios’ story is an example of what the university administration hopes the massive construction project yields, officials said.
“I think this first phase is such a significant milestone,” said UC President Janet Napolitano, noting that it provides new facilities for enrollment for a student body of which the majority are the first in their families to go to college.
More than 100 people toured the main area of the Pavilion on Thursday.
The Pavilion is a 37,000-square-foot building that can seat 600 people and has the capacity to serve 5,000 meals per day, according to the university. It also includes an outdoor terrace that seats 100 people.
The second building, Glacier Point Student Housing, is a 164,000-square-foot six-story building expected to house first-year students. It includes classrooms, retail space and three tennis courts.
Granite Pass Student Housing, the third building, also is expected to serve first-year students. The 100,000-square-foot building is four stories and has classrooms, student life space and a “Little Lake Boardwalk.”
In addition to the buildings, the first phase includes a soccer field and more parking.
The dining and housing areas were sorely needed, UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said.
“Our students have been slammed for space for years,” Leland said, noting students often studied in crowded spaces around campus. “They deserve this space.”
The university has so far spent $660 million on the 2020 Project, including the completed first phase.
The 150,800-square-foot second phase of construction, scheduled for completion by Fall 2019, is expected to include two laboratories and a research server.
The third and final phase expected to complete by Fall 2020, is planned to include more laboratories, housing, expansion of the Early Childhood Education Center, a conference center, competitive swimming pool, a wellness center, recreational fields and a space for enrollment and academic leadership.
The entire project is expected to provide space for an additional 10,000 students, according to the university.
While the construction benefits the university, it also benefits the city, Mayor Mike Murphy said.
“There’s also a real economic impact to our city,” Murphy said.
The total project is expected to provide a $1.9 billion economic impact to the San Joaquin Valley during construction with about 700 workers on site daily, according to university figures. It will add another $200 million per year after completion.
Murphy said the city also needs to prepare the housing market for the anticipated influx of students.
“We’ve got plans in place for more multi-family housing, more single-family housing, and so it’s a real push,” Murphy said.