After stalls and sequester budget slashes, development of a new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory campus moved forward Thursday with Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ announcement of a committee to steer planning of the future Richmond facility.
Although the Richmond Field Station is owned by UC Berkeley, the new lab is set to be a collaboration by researchers from the Berkeley lab, the UC system, UC Berkeley and private entities. The Richmond Bay Campus — identified first in January 2012 as the lab’s location — may not be fully complete until 2050, but planners believe research can still take place before the horizon date in areas such as energy, sustainability and health care.
Terezia Nemeth, UC Berkeley’s development manager for the RBC, emphasized the difficulties associated with implementing the initial development plans.
“The first phase is always the most challenging,” Nemeth said. “Funding and convincing people that this is going to be a great place are hurdles.”
Funding for specific projects has not yet been identified, according to Berkeley lab spokesperson Jon Weiner. Due to the lack of funding sources, site preparation and design have barely entered their first stages.
“Post-sequester (cuts), the Department of Energy revised its priorities and informed LBNL that it could not provide funding for the first phase,” Nemeth said.
The RBC executive committee — which includes Dirks, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer, Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton and Vice Provost for Teaching, Learning, Academic Planning and Facilities Cathy Koshland — is charged with implementing the long-range development plan, a joint proposal by UC Berkeley and Berkeley lab. The group plans to identify research opportunities the new campus could provide, among other duties.
The next big step for the executive committee will come in May, when committee members will present the plan and the environmental impact report to the UC Board of Regents. The committee will hold its first meeting sometime this week, Nemeth said.
After such reports are officially approved by the regents, Nemeth said funding from outside sources is more likely to pour in. The site will occupy 134 acres in Richmond, about eight miles from UC Berkeley and the main Berkeley lab site, according to the long-range development plan. Nemeth called the current site of the Berkeley lab, in the Berkeley Hills, a “physical constraint” to geographic expansion.
The executive committee has also been tasked with identifying ways UC Berkeley can partner with communities in Richmond. According to the long-range development plan, the new facilities have the potential to “strengthen surrounding neighborhoods” and “generate new community economic development opportunities.”