UC Merced gets greenlight for campus project

The University of California's 2020 project marks the first-ever use of an availability payment-DBFOM model for an educational facility in the US.

The University of California (UC), Merced will invite three shortlisted teams to submit proposals for the design, building, partial financing, operation and maintenance of the 2020 project, making it the first availability payment-DBFOM model to be used for an educational facility in the US.

The announcement comes after the UC Board of Regents approved the university’s proposal to procure the project as a public-private partnership (PPP; P3), which the board found to be “in the best interests of the university.”

A preferred bidder will be selected early next year, with construction scheduled to begin in the summer of 2016. Once completed, the preferred bidder will operate and maintain the campus under a 35-year contract.

“Our goal is to complete the first buildings by 2018, with the balance available by 2020,” UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said in a statement. “The total project will add 919,000 assignable square feet of classroom, laboratory, housing and student life facilities, allowing enrollment to grow to 10,000 students within the next five to seven years.” 

Student numbers at the newest UC campus have grown steadily from 875 when the campus opened in 2005 to 6,700 currently. As a result, most administrative personnel have been moved off-campus to make room for students and faculty.

The three teams that were shortlisted last January and which will be invited to proceed to the Request for Proposals (RFP) stage of the project are EP2 Developers (Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, Plenary Group, Education Realty Trust), E3 2020 (Balfour Beatty Investments; Balfour Beatty Construction) and Merced Campus Collaborative (Lend Lease US Investments, Macquarie Capital).

The mixed-use project will be built on a 219-acre, university-owned site that is adjacent to the existing campus. The proposal is based on a detailed analysis and recommendations provided by the Urban Land Institute in January 2013.

According to Leland, the Board of Regents will be asked to approve external financing in May and the basic design approach in July.