A public private partnership at the University of California, Merced is to deliver new academic, housing, recreation, and dining space by 2020.

PHOENIX - The University of California, Merced, received final approval from the UC Board of Regents to move forward with a $1.1 billion public-private partnership.

The regents voted unanimously Thursday to approve the design proposal of the selected developer, Plenary Properties Merced, the proposed external financing, amendments to the project's budget and scope, and revisions of the commercial terms of the project agreement. The project will nearly double the physical capacity of the campus by 2020 with new academic and research space, 1,700 beds of student housing, recreation, dining and student life amenities.

"This is a historic step forward for UC Merced, the UC system, and the growing numbers of talented students throughout California who want and deserve a UC education," said Dorothy Leland, UC Merced chancellor. "By significantly expanding the newest UC campus, we are redoubling our commitment to the San Joaquin Valley, the fastest-growing but most underserved region of the state, while providing critically needed access to many more qualified students throughout California."

The regents' approval clears the way for a formal project agreement to be executed as early as mid-August, with groundbreaking scheduled for October. UC Merced, opened in 2005, is the youngest campus in the UC system. Enrollment has grown rapidly from 875 students in its inaugural year to 6,700, with application growth rates doubling the UC system average in recent years.

About 99% of UC Merced undergraduates attended California high schools.

The project is structured as an "availability-payment concession," a type of P3 with a single private developer responsible for design, construction, operation, maintenance and partial financing of all new facilities over the 39-year term of the contract. PPM will be paid in installments over that time, and UC Merced will resume responsibility for maintenance at the end of the contract. The school will own the buildings at all times.

"This project represents a major step forward for a trailblazing campus that will build on its early record of excellence to lead the way for universities across the nation as we all strive to teach, conduct research and serve the public in the most dynamic, efficient manner possible," said UC President Janet Napolitano. "Final approval of the project is especially significant at a time when we are expanding opportunity by increasing enrollment of Californians by thousands throughout our nine undergraduate campuses, and aiming to maintain that growth beyond 2020."

The project aims to deliver the first new buildings in 2018, with substantial completion anticipated by 2020.

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