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UC Merced in Second Year of $1.3B Expansion

Wed December 20, 2017 - West Edition #26
Chuck Harvey


The Merced 2020 Project will add about 1.2 million gross sq. ft. of space for teaching, research, student housing and support facilities to the existing campus by 2020.
(University of California, Merced photo)
The Merced 2020 Project will add about 1.2 million gross sq. ft. of space for teaching, research, student housing and support facilities to the existing campus by 2020. (University of California, Merced photo)
The Merced 2020 Project will add about 1.2 million gross sq. ft. of space for teaching, research, student housing and support facilities to the existing campus by 2020.
(University of California, Merced photo)
Construction crews are in their second year of a massive four-year $1.3 billion expansion of the University of California campus in Merced.
(University of California, Merced photo) When the campus project is complete, the university will cover a total of 219 acres and buildings will span 2.6 million gross sq. ft.
(University of California, Merced photo) In expanding the campus, crews will deliver the 2020 Project in three phases — the first phase of construction is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2018, the second by fall of 2019 and the third phase by fall of 2020.
(University of California, Merced photo)

Construction crews are in their second year of a massive four-year $1.3 billion expansion of the University of California campus in Merced.

The Merced 2020 Project will add about 1.2 million gross sq. ft. of space for teaching, research, student housing and support facilities to the existing campus by 2020. The expansion is designed to accommodate 10,000 students.

The current campus covers 104 acres with buildings measuring 1.4 million gross sq. ft. Gross sq. ft. is calculated from the outside of the exterior walls.

When the campus project is complete, the university will cover a total of 219 acres and buildings will span 2.6 million gross sq. ft.

New campus buildings will range in height from two to six stories with a maximum height of 60 ft. The taller buildings are sensitively located as to avoid overwhelming shorter buildings.

In expanding the campus, construction crews will deliver the 2020 Project in three phases — the first phase of construction is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2018, the second by fall of 2019 and the third phase by fall of 2020.

The Merced 2020 expansion is being conducted by a public-private partnership known as an Availability Payment Concession. Under this system, a single private development team designs, builds, partially finances, operates and maintains major building systems under a single 39-year term, performance-based project agreement.

The $1.3 billion design and construction cost is funded with $600 million of long-term University of California external financing and $738 million in financing and equity arranged by Plenary Properties Merced, a private development consortium selected to deliver the project.

During construction, the university will make predetermined progress payments totaling $600 million to the developer.

Once the buildings are available for use, the university will then make performance-based availability payments that cover remaining capital costs as well as the cost of operations and maintenance of major building systems.

Breakdown of Construction Phases

The first phase of construction includes student housing and classrooms, a dining area, pool and parking lot. The second phase features a wet laboratory, computational laboratory, faculty offices, competition field and a parking lot.

The third and final phase includes two housing and student life buildings, a conference center, an enrollment center, a wellness center, a second wet laboratory, a greenhouse, recreation fields and a parking lot.

In total, construction crews will add 1,700 new beds to student housing; build three new research buildings; construct four new lecture halls; add more than 50 new classrooms; provide 4,500 new parking spaces; construct a conference center with a large ballroom and campus store; and build a 600-seat dining facility.

Athletics will see some major improvements as well. Workers will install an NCAA-II competition-level pool; tennis and basketball courts; and fields for various sports.

A lighted NCAA-II competition field anchors the western edge of the construction site and is designed for competitive soccer. Two recreation fields are being developed adjacent to the competition field. Space is provided adjacent to the fields to enable construction of 3,000-seat bleachers.

The project will add 1,570 new parking spaces. That is in addition to 2,600 current spaces.

The expansion project will enable the campus to continue its groundbreaking research in fields diverse as social justice, climate change, solar energy and drone technology. It is designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration.

Public-Private Partnership

The project is led by a public-private development team called Plenary Group. It includes Plenary Properties Merced (PPM), lead developer, equity provider and financial arranger; Webcor Construction LP of San Francisco, lead contractor; Skidmore Owings & Merrill Inc. of Chicago, lead campus planner; and Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee, lead operations and management firm.

Webcor was selected through a specialized competitive procurement process that included financial, technical and qualitive considerations.

The project is overseen by a University of California, Merced governance board comprised of campus leadership.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill developed the project master plan.

About 400 workers are working on the project each day.

Concrete Pouring

Crews have started construction of walls for the first-phase buildings.

They also have started construction of a below-plaza underground loading dock that connects multiple buildings for deliveries and services.

The sloped roof of the new dining multipurpose facility is now taking shape. The 600-seat building is scheduled to open in fall of 2018.

A construction team is assembling the steel components of the building's roof.

Meanwhile construction of the third floor of the new Housing 1B residential facility is under way. Overlooking the new multipurpose dining facility, Housing 1B will provide additional undergraduate residential housing to UC Merced. A permanent name for the six-story building will be selected after it opens. LEED Gold is the design target.

Work also has begun at ground level including a 4,500-space surface parking lot that is nearly complete.

Variety of Heavy Equipment

“One 200-foot crane, cement trucks and other heavy vehicles are currently on site,” said Richard Cummings, University of California, Merced director of strategic communications. “As the project progresses, an additional crane is anticipated.”

New Building Design

New campus buildings are designed to blend in well with the existing campus structures. They will be painted in neutral exterior colors atop low-maintenance materials like cement plaster and precast concrete. “The new buildings echo UC Merced's initial buildings, which use materials familiar to California's largely agrarian Central Valley,” Cummings said. “The exterior of the new buildings also has been oriented to reduce urban heat effects and ensure user comfort.”

Both the fenestration and selected materials apply strategies to reduce solar glare in or on buildings, streets and pedestrian walkways. However, the buildings are still designed to allow natural light to fill the interiors.

In the spirit of the Central Valley's agricultural character, the new dining facility reinterprets the look of the traditional industrial shed. It utilizes simple materials and a long-span steel structural system to create an expansive interior dining space.

A dining facility window wall will provide views of an on-campus lake.

Campus Growth

UC Merced has grown substantially and will continue to do so. The newest campus in the 10-campus University of California system, the University of California, Merced opened with 875 students in 2005. Since then it has grown to a current enrollment of 7,300 students.

The university's primary goals are to grow enrollment from 7,300 students to the 10,000 level, add research capacity and address infrastructure needs.

In terms of education, the university wants to foster opportunity for the next generation of Californians. More than 70 percent of the university's students are among the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university.

And more than 60 percent come from low income families.

As population surged including growing demand from high school students, the university had a critical need for more space.

The University of California system decided it was time to expand. Not in just one area of the campus, but in multi-areas and multi-departments.

“By developing classrooms, laboratories, housing and infrastructure in one project, the university will be able to continue its enrollment growth in the most efficient, cost effective way possible,” Cummings said.

Economic Benefits

The University reports that the one-time economic benefit of the project is an estimated $1.9 billion for the San Joaquin Valley and $2.4 billion statewide. The project is expected to create thousands of jobs, especially in construction and thousands of permanent new campus positions as the university expands.

CEG




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