University House to be Rebuilt

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After over three years of vacancy, the UC Santa Cruz University House and Event Center — home and hosting-space of sitting chancellors since 1967 — will be demolished by UCSC. In its place, the administration plans to build a new, larger facility to be completed by winter 2022.  The project is now awaiting budget approval from the UC Regents. 

The redevelopment plans come after a fall 2015 building study red-tagged the aging space for seismic vulnerability, citing decades of wear and tear and overdue structural retrofits. In March, Chancellor George Blumenthal and vice chancellor of the UCSC Office of Planning and Budget Margaret Delaney brought a preliminary budget and timeline for the project to the UC Regents meeting at UCLA. 

“Like me, [the University House] has aged considerably over time,” Blumenthal said during the Regents meeting. “The house does not meet modern standards of accessibility, and is thus less welcoming to the many visitors that we have.”

The project will cost as much as $10 million, according to Blumenthal and Delaney’s report.

Over the past three years, the University House and Event Center Planning Committee has examined six different renewal options ranging from reconstruction to renovation to off-campus relocation. They arrived at the total redevelopment plan after finding it would be comparable in cost to renovation. 

The 1967 structure would require extensive upgrades to be brought to modern seismic standards. And in general, refits come with a greater number of unanticipated costs compared to new construction.

“You open up a wall, you open up the ceiling, you find something you didn’t expect,” Delaney said. “The renovation process becomes more costly.” 

The new University House will boast up to 9,500 square feet of floor space, with 60 percent of its area devoted to public event hosting. The remaining space will serve as a private residence for the chancellor and their family. 

Hadi Makarechian, regent and chair of the UC Finance and Capital Strategies Committee, called the project’s $10 million budget a “non-starter” at the March Regents meeting, and requested the Planning Committee return with a cheaper proposal at the Regents meeting in May.

“You plan to build at a maximum of 9,500 square feet, and for a budget of $10 million, that’s almost $1,000 a square foot, for a house,” Makarechian said. “When you come back for budget approval, […] I think you should put a much, much lower budget in there, and have people design to that budget.”

No state tax or tuition dollars will go toward the University House development. Instead, UCSC will finance the project through an internal loan to be paid off through endowment donations over the next two decades. UCSC has postponed the release of the House’s full project budget for approval from May to a yet-to-be-determined date.


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