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UC Berkeley suspends plans for Richmond ‘global campus’

Berkeley-Richmond-Campus
The design for UC Berkeley’s second campus, known as the global campus. The plan has been suspended because of budget issues. Image: UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley has suspended its plans to build a second campus at Richmond Bay because of what it says is its need to address significant budgetary challenges. The decision was conveyed by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to members of the Richmond Community Working Group in a meeting on Thursday evening, according to the university.

Dirks said UC Berkeley was indefinitely suspending plans to build the campus at Richmond Bay, but that the university would continue to explore options for the site “that reflect new priorities for the campus around enrollment growth and housing in the near future,” according to a statement by the university.

The project, known as the global campus, was designed as an alternative to UC Berkeley establishing campuses in other countries as some universities, including New York University, Johns Hopkins University and Carnegie Mellon University, have done in recent years.

The global campus website describes the goal of the campus as being “a focal point for an international coalition of leading academic institutions and private sector and community partners.”   Just ten months ago, Chancellor Dirks was still talking about the importance of the global campus to the university, and how it would help cement its position as one of the top public universities in the world, in a conversation at the Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas (listen to the podcast).


However, since then, the university’s financial woes have come into sharper focus, and Dirks has announced his decision to step down. When the chancellor announced a comprehensive strategic planning process in February, Cal’s deficit was projected to be around $150 million dollars in the fiscal year ending in June 2016.

The global campus was an outgrowth of the plans announced in 2012 for Berkeley Lab to construct a second campus at the Richmond Field Station (RFS). That ambitious project was sidelined when the federal Department of Energy, Berkeley Lab’s owner, cut funding in the 2013 budget sequestration project. The global campus was an effort to develop RFS with university, Berkeley Lab and private sector tenants.

Dirks said Thursday that the university is still committed to working closely with Richmond on the Richmond Bay Specific Plan and on “existing partnerships in workforce training, procurement, and education.” In the Cal statement, the university said campus representatives also agreed “to work with the City of Richmond to follow up on the Community Working Group’s recommendations when the university’s plans for new large scale construction in Richmond are clear.”

At the meeting Dirks expressed his regret that the project would not be moving forward. According to the East Bay Times which reported on the news, Dirks also said that Berkeley would look at other options for a development, such as inviting an anchor tenant like Google to the site. On Friday, a UC Berkeley spokesman confirmed that Cal would be continuing to explore alternative funding sources, including those in the private sector.

A statement by Berkeley Lab director Mike Witherell was also read out in his absence at Thursday’s meeting in which he stated that, given Cal’s announcement, the Lab was ending its partnership with UC Berkeley to develop the global campus. It read: “When UC Berkeley then announced its intention to pursue development of the Berkeley Global Campus at the Richmond Field Station, Berkeley Lab was pleased to have an opportunity to partner with the campus in the hopes of identifying a way to move forward. Unfortunately, the impacts of several years of compounding flat budgets have forced Berkeley Lab to conclude that there are no longer the means to develop any projects at the Richmond Field Station.”


The university statement concludes: “Chancellor noted that the work of the CWG has provided an invaluable foundation for all future projects on the Richmond Bay Campus when we are able to launch them, and said that the experience gave him great hope for and confidence in the future of city-university partnerships.”

Related:
Berkeley Lab chooses Richmond for second campus (01.23.12)
Berkeley Lab second campus decision delayed into 2012 (11.22.11)
Berkeley Lab holds meeting for Emeryville/Berkeley site (08.09.11)
Live from Berkeley Lab’s Aquatic Park West meeting (08.04.11)
Live from Berkeley Lab’s Golden Gate Fields meeting (08.03.11)
Berkeley sites for Lab’s second campus in spotlight (08.03.11)
Berkeley bids for Lab’s second campus fly under radar (07.15.11)

This story was updated after publication to include a partial statement from Berkeley Lab director Mike Witherell.

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