Since the middle of last month, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been listening to the proposals of cities stretching from Richmond to Alameda in order to decide where the lab will erect a second campus.
According to lab spokesperson Jon Weiner, the proposed second campus is an effort to consolidate lab programs currently in leased spaces throughout the Bay Area, provide room for future lab growth, and provide long-term cost savings as the laboratory pursues its scientific research mission.
In January, the UC issued a Request for Qualifications on behalf of the lab so that a decision for the second campus’ site could be made, according to Weiner. The campus should have approximately 800 people and be an estimated 475,000 square feet, he added.
On May 9, the university released a list of six finalist sites, including Alameda Point, the Berkeley Aquatic Park West in West Berkeley, properties currently occupied by the lab in Emeryville and Berkeley, Oakland’s Brooklyn Basin, Golden Gate Fields and the UC-owned Richmond Field Station. According to Weiner, the lab is looking for a site approximately 25 minutes from the Berkeley campus.
The sites’ developers have been making their proposals to the lab since July 13, and the final proposal will be made by the properties occupied by the lab in Emeryville and Berkeley on August 8. Weiner said he estimates that a decision will be made by November of this year.
“Ideally, a move-in date would be 2016, but the construction will depend on the site,” Weiner added.
The lab publicized in a presentation that it is looking for a supportive community with a transportation system and amenities for its employees. Lobbying for the lab to choose the Richmond Field Station as the site for the campus, Richmond City Councilmember Jeff Ritterman said Richmond is the ideal place for the lab, complete with a great amount of community support.
“Everybody on the City Council is enthusiastic,” he said. “Members of the Citizen Action Group have all come on board, and we have universal support for this in Richmond, which in and of itself is unusual.”
Ritterman added that he thinks having this lab could help solve Richmond’s unemployment problem. He said he thinks that if the lab can attract green companies, then Richmond can provide the training and people for the workforce.
“The lab is a world-class facility. It does research on life science, genetics, biofuels and cancer,” he said. “Richmond would become a first-class research center. It would give us a much-needed economic boost.”
Alameda Point’s Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott said the site has offered 45 acres of its land for free in order to try to attract the lab. The site provides the best complete package for what the lab is looking for as far as balancing existing amenities in terms of parks, retail and restaurants, with the ability to provide long-term growth potential, Ott said.
“We think it would be a great catalyst for redeveloping the rest of the Navy base,” she said. “We think it would increase our retail sales, it would promote job growth in other parts of the city, it would makes us really a center for clean-tech jobs and create a community resource for our youths and our community.”