Watching the work crews add some final touches to the exterior of the new UC Merced Downtown Center, a life-long Merced resident looked at the sight, and with a degree of pride said, “I’ve been here all my life. I feel like saying ‘where did this come from’?”
The new thirty-three million dollar three-story Campus Center officially opened with much fanfare on January 23. The Center will be the workplace for three-hundred UC Merced non-academic employees.
The building provides 67,400 square feet of office space. It is state-of-the-art energy efficient, having earned a Gold designation from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the US Green Building Council.
The new facility replaces leased space that has served the University well in the early years of operation. With any rented office, the tenant usually modifies the existing space to fit the needs of a particular department.
The new space was designed specifically for the departments that will use the offices. Groups that frequently need to work together will now be down the hall, or up a level or two within the new building.
All of this gives the University greater flexibility in managing the growth of various departments.
According to the UC Merced website, forty non-academic departments are being brought into the new Center.
The departments will move according to a three-phase plan that begins immediately and ends by the summer of 2019.
Resources from the University teaching, research, and public service departments will be integrated into the Downtown Center. It is hoped this collaboration of University resources will help create and nurture partnerships throughout the community.
The Center’s location is no accident. Directly across the street from City Hall, the facility is symbolically linked to the future of the City of Merced.
With three-hundred new workers soon to inhabit the downtown area, there are a lot of eyes watching to see how downtown will adapt and change with this new anchor employer in place.
Already, transitions are taking place in UC leased space at the Prominade, Mondo, Castle, and Venture Lab locations.
The Downtown Campus Center drives home the point that the UC is a legitimate part of the downtown Merced community.
It always has been that way since even before the Lake Road campus opened.
But now, with permanent office space that many would agree is a centerpiece of downtown, UC Merced has made a mark
As that lifelong Merced resident said to me as we looked at the new building, “this is truly amazing.”
Steve Newvine lives in Merced.
He has written California Back Roads, Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine.