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Lower Sproul renovation delayed by postponement of UC regents' meeting

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NOVEMBER 14, 2011

Lower Sproul’s renovation would have reached one of its final major hurdles before the UC Board of Regents Wednesday, when campus leaders from UC Berkeley were prepared to make their case for the multimillion dollar construction project.

But with the board’s meeting’s postponement, campus administrators and student leaders are going to have to wait a bit longer.

If the regents had authorized the borrowing for the $193 million renovation, the campus could have moved forward with the project. But with no meeting, there’s no rubber stamp to get the money, and with no money besides what was already approved by the board in January — approximately $7 million for planning — not much can be done.

“We are governed by what was authorized before,” said Erin Gore, campus associate vice chancellor and chief financial officer.

In the spring 2010 ASUC general elections, students overwhelmingly passed the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative, which directed the renovation of Lower Sproul Plaza, long identified as outdated and aesthetically deficient. The referendum approved a student fee to improve the safety and sustainability of Eshleman Hall, the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building and the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

Under current projections, the demolition of Eshleman Hall is anticipated for fall 2012, and the renovations are expected to end in winter or spring 2015.

While the renovations are billed as a $223 million project — the $193 million borrow plus another $30 million for yet-to-be determined projects — total costs, including debt payments, maintenance and security, will soar well over $800 million. For students, it’s an expensive project coming at a difficult time for the university. But campus leaders are optimistic that the project is worth the cost of the new plaza.

“These new facilities will give students the resources and support they deserve to carry out all of the amazing extracurricular activities they’re engaged in,” said Joseph Guzman, former graduate student and co-chair of the Lower Sproul Student Council, which helped pass the initiative. “Especially in a time of fee increases, it’s important that students have a place where they can call home.”

Victoria Pardini of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Mihir Zaveri is the lead development and capital projects reporter.

NOVEMBER 14, 2011