UC Merced to purchase land in downtown

UC Merced will purchase publicly auctioned land in downtown Merced in effort to accommodate future growth, officials announced Monday.

The land is 0.85 of an acre vacant lot at 18th and N streets, across from the Merced Civic Center. According to officials, the land most likely will serve as the site of a building for administrative and support staff.

The campus is also in talks with the city of Merced to lease office space in the Parcade Building at 18th and M streets. This space would serve as a hub for technology transfer and entrepreneurial initiatives.

According to Chancellor Dorothy Leland, these plans are a step forward in the school’s 2020 project, designed to accelerate campus growth.

“As enrollment grows we also have to grow our staff. We don’t have enough building space on our campus footprint; we really only have room for academic and research buildings,” Leland said. “This is a way to consolidate off-campus space.”

Downtown Merced seemed like the ideal place because the university’s presence downtown can contribute to the growth and strength of small businesses in the area, she added.

“These developments represent a significant campus commitment to downtown Merced. We believe in its growth, vitality and its future role in the development of the campus,” said Leland. “The new administrative building and technology hub expand our connection with the community and will be an economic driver for the area as the campus moves toward having 10,000 students by 2020.”

The university will pay $630,000 for the land. The auction closed Friday and the purchase should close later in the summer. Planning for development of the site would begin after the deal closes.

The decision to move some staff members downtown came after an expert panel with the Urban Land Institute recommended putting university workers at a central location to increase efficiency and strengthen the campus’ presence in the city.

“Having a presence downtown will lead to more collaboration with local and regional industry and provide much-needed space for the campus’ budding entrepreneurs to hone their ideas,” said Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Sam Traina.

According to the university, the new off-campus location would be for staff members who do not have direct interaction with students. Professors and researchers will remain on campus. The new site will be an addition to several spaces the university leases in Merced and Atwater.

“We’ve been considering options for almost a year now,” Leland said. “We’re glad to see this progress and to have been successful in making that purchase.”

Merced Mayor Stan Thurston said having the new offices downtown will help bring the campus and the city closer together.

“When we first discussed having a UC in Merced, about 15 years ago, we did talk about not becoming two separate communities. We wanted for the school and the city to come together, and I think this will help,” Thurston said.

“We very much appreciate the commitment UC Merced is continuing to make in our downtown area,” Thurston said.