UC Merced

UC Merced looking for development team to expand campus

A student heads down campus on a scooter during first day of classes after the holidays at UC Merced in Merced Tuesday. (1-21-14)
A student heads down campus on a scooter during first day of classes after the holidays at UC Merced in Merced Tuesday. (1-21-14) bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com

UC Merced is looking for at least one partner to help it reach its goal of 10,000 students by 2020, according to a news release.

After several years of rapid growth, the university has reached an enrollment of nearly 6,200 and is running low on space for incoming students. The campus, which opened in 2005 with 875 students, has six years to reach 10,000 students, its goal for Project 2020.

According to numbers released this month, undergraduate applications to UC Merced for this fall hit 17,469, a 1.6 percent increase compared to last fall. Space constraints will limit the university’s total enrollment increase to 165 more students than last year at the same time, or up to about 6,360.

“With student applications hitting new records each year we need to add more buildings, facilities and housing quickly and cost-effectively to ensure as many qualified students as possible can be admitted,” Chancellor Dorothy Leland said in the release.

To that end, UC Merced will open a competitive process for one or more development partners in the spring, the release stated.

The selected development team will design and build about 1.5 million square feet of teaching, research and residential space on a 219-acre, university-owned site next to the campus. The university aims to have a team in place by year’s end and begin construction in 2017, the release stated.

Campus planners expect to erect mixed-use buildings in compact clusters to save time and money. In May 2013, the UC Board of Regents approved an amendment to the campus’ master plan and certified an environmental impact report to move Project 2020 forward.

The project is structured to give the campus greater flexibility in designing, building and financing sustainable, high-quality facilities for the next phase of growth, said Vice Chancellor for Planning and Budget Daniel Feitelberg.

“We will look for a development team with a demonstrated track record and capacity to deliver dynamic, large-scale projects,” Feitelberg said in the release.

UC Merced selected Jones Lang LaSalle as its development and financial adviser for Project 2020.

Administrators have also proposed moving support staff to a single downtown Merced location to reduce travel and public safety costs. The university employs more than 1,300 people.

UC Merced is the first new UC campus in 40 years and the first American research university built in the 21st century. The campus has the largest percentage of first-generation college students, low-income students and students from underrepresented ethnic groups in the 10-campus UC system.

The university is a large economic force in Merced County and the region. The value of wages and benefits paid, construction contracts awarded, and goods and services purchased in the San Joaquin Valley between July 2000 and Aug. 31 of last year amounted to $946 million, the university reported.

When fully developed, UC Merced is expected to enroll some 25,000 students in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs across its academic disciplines, the release stated.

More details on Project 2020 are online at 2020project.ucmerced.edu.