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Merced, Calif. — March 19, 2015 — The University of California, Merced, will outline for the UC Board of Regents a new development strategy that will more than double the physical capacity of campus facilities by 2020 in an effort to accommodate record numbers of student applicants, increase regional and statewide access to a UC education, and support the university’s most critical academic and research priorities.
The newest UC campus, which opened in 2005 with 875 students and now enrolls more than 6,200, will employ a team of private developers and an innovative, fast-track construction model to add nearly 1 million assignable square feet as rapidly and cost-effectively as possible.
Plans call for the new facilities to be built as a mixed-use, master-planned development on a 219-acre, university-owned site that includes the existing campus. By contracting with a private, multifaceted team to develop the entire project at once, rather than sequentially as individual projects, the university expects to save significant time and money compared with traditional procurement approaches.
The “2020 Project” is expected to create 10,800 new construction jobs in the San Joaquin Valley during the construction period and generate an estimated $1.9 billion in direct and indirect economic impact in the region. Statewide, the totals are 12,600 new construction jobs and $2.4 billion in combined economic impact.
The expansion project will also significantly increase permanent university employment and support enrollment growth to about 10,000 students, the university said.
Construction could begin in late 2016 or the first half of 2017, with phased delivery of facilities in the 2018-2020 timeframe.
UC Merced will also seek Board of Regents approval to begin design work on its Downtown Center project, an administrative building complex that would serve as the hub for its growing presence in downtown Merced. At about 75,000-100,000 gross square feet, the facility would allow the university to consolidate much of its administrative activity in a central location that will help bring economic vitality to the downtown area and promote a closer relationship between the campus and community.
The rapid addition of academic, research, housing, and recreational facilities is in direct response to growing student demand from the San Joaquin Valley and across the state to attend the most diverse, intimate, and environmentally sustainable campus in the UC system. About 97 percent of UC Merced undergraduates hail from California. The campus leads the UC system in the percentage of students who are from under-represented ethnic groups, who are the first in their families to attend a four-year institution, and who come from low-income families that receive federal Pell grants.
Despite a 14 percent increase in undergraduate applications for Fall 2015 — the highest in the UC system — the campus has been forced to slow enrollment growth due to severe capacity constraints. UC Merced received 17,000 applications for Fall 2014 but had seats for fewer than 10 percent of its applicants.