After four years, a coalition of organizations has completed the largest public-private partnership (P3) social infrastructure project in U.S. history. The 1.2-million-gross-square-foot campus expansion, known as UC Merced 2020, was officially delivered to the University on June 1.
"This project will enable UC's newest and fastest-growing campus to serve up to 10,000 students and increase access to the exceptional research, teaching, and public service opportunities provided by the most respected public university system in the world," says Nathan Brostrom, UC Merced's Interim Chancellor.
The $1.3 billion project includes student housing, classrooms, teaching and research space, student wellness and counseling facilities, and recreational spaces. Delivery occurred in three phases, beginning in mid-July 2018, with the second phase finished in mid-2019.
The P3 development team, which banded together under the banner of Plenary Properties Merced (PPM), was led by developer and equity provider Plenary in partnership with Webcor; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the lead campus planner; and Johnson Controls Inc, which is responsible for operations and maintenance.
Public-private partnerships are collaborations between a government entity and private-sector companies to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain projects, allowing the project to be completed on time or ahead of schedule and typically for a lower cost than would have been possible if the project was developed in a more traditional manner.
"The project was conceived as a design, build, finance, operate, and maintain (DBFOM) project," says Webcor Chief Operations Officer Matt Rossie. "The University provided a vision. The Plenary Properties Merced team turned the vision into designs, procured subcontractors, installed the infrastructure, constructed the buildings, and commissioned the building systems – all in less than four years."
"Because of the DBFOM delivery method, everything was designed and built with long-term maintenance, operations, and energy costs factored into the equation, resulting in a project that has been holistically designed and built to provide long-term value," Rossie adds.
"The project's on-time completion significantly improved UC Merced's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic," Interim Chancellor Brostom says. "The additional space we have opened on campus will be critical in ensuring that we could comply with social distancing requirements while still serving our students who remained on campus. We are grateful for these partnerships."
"We appreciate the contributions of all who have had a hand in this accomplishment and we look forward to making sure these new facilities perform to the highest standards and serve the needs of current and future generations of UC Merced students, faculty and administrators," says Dale Bonner, executive chairman of Plenary Concessions.
"This on-time, on-budget completion of the 2020 Project shows that incredible things can happen when all stakeholders work together with a true spirit of partnership," adds Bonner.The myriad obstacles the P3 team overcame made the project's on-time and on-budget completion particularly noteworthy. "This team persevered through floods, wildfires, and a pandemic.
They respected their client and the community. They never lost sight of their obligation to deliver this project on time and on budget," says Rossie. "We all believed in the purpose of the project: building an institution of higher learning that would benefit the residents of the Central Valley and further the futures of young people."