Today, it is a muddy cow pasture. By summer, it will be home to $85 million in facilities for the new UC Merced campus.

Of UC Merced’s 2,000 acres, 910 will be utilized at for academics, parking, housing and athletics. An additional 340 acres will be set aside as a reserve for the future construction of UC Merced, and the remaining 750 acres will stay undeveloped as a natural reserve of vernal pool habitat.

Preliminary construction planning is underway for the new campus, scheduled to open its doors in the fall of 2004. UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said UC Merced will serve 1,000 students on opening day and will eventually educate 25,000 each year.

“UC Merced will be the first major research university built in the U.S. in the 21st century,” Tomlinson-Keasey said. “We see an enormous opportunity to create a truly beautiful and functional campus that will set a new standard for environmental conservation.”

Construction of the first structures will begin in a few months.

McCarthy Building Company of Roseville is responsible for the construction of a $25 million classroom and administration building and a $58 million science and engineering building. Swinerton Builders of San Francisco will be accountable for site improvements and infrastructure planning in addition to providing construction management services for the Kolligian Library and Informational Technology Center.

“We’re very excited to be a part of the new UC,” Rod Thayer, vice president of McCarthy Building Company said. “The UC system is our number one and largest client.”

McCarthy will begin construction of the classroom and administration building this February, and will start the science and engineering building in May.

“We’re still in the pre-construction phase, which consists of estimating, budgeting and the subcontractor process,” Thayer said. “We’ll begin construction in a few months, and will have the first building of UC Merced completed in the summer of 2004.”

Both buildings will be “green” buildings – buildings that meet specifications for sustainable construction design – and will receive certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design group.

The rest of the UC Merced campus will also include “green” features.

“The entire campus is designed to achieve the silver rating,” said Bill Cahill, assistant city manager for the city of Merced. “All buildings will have some green ratings.”

The only project challenges faced so far involve environmental concerns, Thayer said.

“The environmentalists have brought to our attention their concerns for the wetlands [at the site of UC Merced],” he said. “They don’t want any damage done, which is our primary focus at this point.”

Last February, several local environmental groups filed law suits against the University of California, trying to halt UC Merced’s construction because of environmental concerns for the vernal pool habitat on the campus’ designated site. Since then, the UC has been working on incorporating such environmental concerns into the construction plans. No construction will be done on the vernal lands; which will be set aside and protected from all development, Cahill said.

The construction companies expect a smooth construction process aided by the support of the city of Merced.

“The city has always been very supportive of UC Merced,” Cahill said. “We are doing all we can to make sure the project occurs in a timely way.”