By David Goll
From the sylvan flagship University of California campus in Berkeley to the modern, bustling Richmond shoreline, major UC construction and renovation projects are filling the East Bay development pipeline.
They dovetail off a burst of construction that has been transforming the 147-year-old Berkeley campus in recent years with such projects as the new $24 million Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation and $223 million renovation of Lower Sproul Plaza.[contextly_sidebar id=”7PjGh5HVSFvv4rcosAE74u81Sn36hfKi”]By far the biggest development plum of the future will not be in Berkeley, but eight miles away along the southern bay shore of Richmond. The Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay, planned to be built over a period of 40 years at an estimated cost of more than $1 billion, could begin construction as early as 2016. The 135-acre, 5.4 million-square-foot facility—planned to be a center for faculty and scholars from UC-Berkeley and elite universities worldwide gathering to tackle such global problems as climate change, poverty, inadequate health care and food security—will be located on university property now partially occupied by the Richmond Field Station.
Other major Berkeley projects include the new 320,000-square-foot, $185 million Berkeley Way West building scheduled for completion by late 2017, and an extensive renovation of 137,000-square-foot Wheeler Hall—site of the university’s largest academic auditorium with 700 seats—to be completed by early 2017. That work will upgrade the nearly century-old building’s mechanical, plumbing, electrical, communications, water and fire and safety systems. Construction is scheduled to start in May. There is no cost estimate yet, said Christine Shaff, communications director in the UC Berkeley real estate department.
Bill Lindsay, Richmond city manager, said while his city will not be involved in approving construction of the Berkeley Global Campus, UC Berkeley officials have taken into account Richmond General Plan guidelines for this waterfront district, including height restrictions and building design standards.
A 20-member working group composed of representatives from the city, university, religious, education, business and philanthropic communities is expected to finish its legally binding “community benefits” agreement on such issues as local hiring, procurement, housing and education by year’s end to submit to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.
“We think this is a game changer for Richmond, a strong economic driver for years to come as it is built out,” Lindsay said of the campus, expected to generate 10,000 on-campus jobs and 13,000 support jobs. “It will become a catalyst for development of the surrounding area.”
He said city officials are now doing a specific plan for districts around the campus. He credited the working group for tackling major issues facing the massive development, expressing hopes it will become a good neighbor for his city of 107,000 people with an annual median household income of $54,000, compared to Berkeley’s $63,000 and Walnut Creek’s $84,000. Richmond has an unemployment rate of 9 percent and poverty rate of 18 percent. Two-thirds of its population is Hispanic or African-American. San Ramon-based oil industry giant Chevron Corp. is the city’s largest employer with 3,536 workers at its refinery.
A recently released report compiled by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC-Berkeley calls on the university to take steps to spread the prosperity around Richmond. Among them:
- Invest in workforce development programs that support historically excluded workers
- Adopt a hiring policy targeting local and disadvantaged workers
- Promote purchasing opportunities for new, small, minority-owned and worker-owned businesses
- Support assistance for low-income renters, local rent control and renter-protection programs
- Encourage the construction of affordable housing
- Support teachers in the West Contra Costa Unified School District and other Richmond schools with training, curriculum and equipment
Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor of communications and public affairs, said the university appreciates input from the report, but it’s premature to make commitments since the project is in its early stages. He said a public-private partnership model will be used to build the campus, which will attract top-flight educational institutions.
“Our academic partners have not been announced yet, but they are elite foreign universities from across Asia and Europe,” Mogulof said. “It used to be that universities would gain prestige by building foreign campuses in places like Abu Dhabi. With this campus, we want to flip the script.”
The only similar program in the nation, Mogulof said, is a collaboration between the University of Washington and China’s Tsinghua University to foster technological innovation with an infusion of $40 million from Microsoft Corp.
“It’s much narrower in scope and ambition,” he said.
Not small at all is the new Berkeley Way West structure, to rise on a site bounded by Shattuck and Hearst avenues, and Berkeley Way. Featuring classrooms, faculty offices and meeting rooms, the eight-story building will serve as home of the university’s Graduate School of Education, Department of Psychology and School of Public Health, Shaff said. There may be room for other academic departments and university-affiliated programs. Turner Construction Co. will serve as general contractor for the project.
Shaff said UC Berkeley recently completed a $3 billion fundraising drive for academic programs and building renovations. Financial appeals to the public are increasingly important for California’s public universities, which have seen a sharp drop in state support. She said state funds now account for 13 percent of the UC Berkeley budget. By comparison, the state contributed 87 percent of funding for the entire UC system in 1980.