UC regents approve additional funding for Berkeley Way West project

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The UC regents approved additional funding to expand the size and efficiency of a new building project planned to begin in November and to eventually replace Tolman Hall.

At their Wednesday meeting, the UC Board of Regents Committee on Grounds and Buildings approved $35 million in funding to add about 95,000 square feet of leasable space to the building, called the Berkeley Way West project, on top of the existing $150 million budget. The new eight-story complex, which will be built at a site on Shattuck and Hearst avenues, will house the Graduate School of Education, the department of psychology and the School of Public Health, and will lease space to affiliated third parties and campus administration.

The open and shared spaces in the new building will bring collaboration between faculty, said Richard Ivry, the chair of the campus psychology department.

With the addition, the campus could consolidate some of the 210,000 square feet of campus units currently leased from third-party landlords throughout Downtown Berkeley. These leases amount to $6 million in rent annually.

By leasing out the new space to campus units, the project will cycle revenue back to campus, according to Bob Lalanne, the vice chancellor for real estate.

“Why don’t we pay off our own mortgages?”  Lalanne said at the meeting.

Additionally, Tolman Hall, which currently houses the Graduate School of Education and department of psychology, will remain in operation until the completion of the new building, set for 2017. The School of Public Health currently resides in University and Haviland halls.

This replacement is a part of the university’s Seismic Action plan, which came about after a 1997 survey suggested that 23 percent of the campus needed better earthquake safety. The campus has now completed about 80 percent of the plan through retrofitting and replacement of existing buildings, according to Christine Shaff, spokesperson for the campus real estate division. These projects have been funded through a combination of private donors and state funding.

At the meeting, Regent Hadi Makarechian congratulated the campus’s effort to keep construction costs for the building low compared with costs of other projects. Lalanne said at the meeting that these lower costs allowed the amended plan to include about $7 million for the future demolition of Tolman Hall, as well as clearance of that site, which was not included originally.

The Education Psychology library will close down with Tolman Hall’s closure, according to librarian Margaret Phillips. She said this will be inconvenient for students, as the books kept there will be scattered among the other campus libraries or withdrawn.

Though the regents approved the Berkeley Way West amendment, they did not approve the construction of a new laboratory and office building proposed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory because of concerns about the project’s proximity to the Hayward Fault. At the meeting, the laboratory said that the design is based on the possibility of a 6.8-magnitude earthquake and that with a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, the building could suffer severe damages.

Without funding from the state, the next step in the Seismic Action plan has not yet been decided, but “there is still more to do,” Shaff said.

Contact Yuka Koshino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @xxchris78xx.