Berkeley Lab discusses future of new facility in Richmond

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The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory conducted a community workshop Thursday for Richmond residents regarding the lab’s proposed biosciences facility on the Richmond Bay Campus.

Manager of State and Community Relations for Berkeley Lab Sam Chapman said the lab held the workshop because it wanted to be good neighbors with the city of Richmond.

“We wanted them to have input,” Chapman said. “We wanted to present these ideas to them to let them know they are involved.”

The new lab location became necessary because 25 percent of Berkeley Lab research is currently conducted away from the main facility in Berkeley.

Chapman said it would be more efficient to consolidate scientists who have to conduct their research outside of the main lab in one location.

“(The project) gives us a chance to do more things (there) than on campus,” said campus Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming.

Since the new facilities will be located in the southern gateway of Richmond, Associate Planner Hector Rojas said the Berkeley Lab development will abide by ground rules for land development in order to maintain a healthy city.

According to Fleming, the UC Board of Regents has owned the land in Richmond since the 1950s.

“We already have engineering facilities, storage for art and anthropology, books that otherwise may not be available of the UC Berkeley campus,” Fleming said.

In 2011, the city of Alameda was one of the finalists competing with Richmond to be the location for the extended science facilities, but the Berkeley Lab decided late last November to commence development in Richmond.

The first phase of the project requires 300,000 to 500,000 square feet of development, according to Chapman. The Berkeley Lab is currently working with the U.S. Department of Energy and the university to acquire funding for the project. The total cost of the development has not yet been estimated.

Although the city of Richmond cannot facilitate the project development process, Rojas said it is able to provide feedback, which UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Lab gave them the opportunity to do at the Thursday meeting.

Attendees were presented various possible building designs for the new facility, according to Chapman. Tables were set up to present different topics such as transportation, which dealt with how individuals were going to travel between UC Berkeley and the Richmond Bay campus.

Other topics included hiring and business opportunities, construction sustainability and education and community wellness.

According to Chapman, the general biosciences, such as joint genome and life sciences, will be the type of research conducted at the proposed facility site. More focus would also be placed on life sciences topics such as breast cancer research and diagnostics.

Fleming spoke at the Thursday workshop about how UC Berkeley wants to work on health, energy and environment at the proposed facility.
He also spoke about the amazing amount of interest the attendees expressed at the workshop, which he said is good because he wants this project to be positive for Richmond.

“(The attendees) were genuinely welcoming and enthusiastic,” he said. “There were a good amount of positive responses.”