Chancellor Wilcox discusses plans for school expansion

Courtesy of UCR Today
Courtesy of UCR Today

On Tuesday, May 3 at a town hall meeting, Chancellor Kim Wilcox discussed the Physical Master Plan for the school’s expansion. This plan encompasses what changes the community and students can expect to see on campus over the next 50 years. The chancellor emphasized a focus on practical improvements and accessibility to the campus, as well as the creation of more research space to accommodate the increase in student population.

The Physical Master Plan was composed by the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Budget Maria R. Anguiano, who worked in cooperation with a committee of 29. This committee was comprised of students, faculty and administration, who then consulted with over 150 student organizations. According to Wilcox, “This was not just some people in a room deciding what the world should look like in the future, this was a very engaged kind of broad-based discussion.”

Among the additions that were highlighted in the plan, the most notable is the concept of an entertainment center where concerts could be held and a new basketball court installed. The center, along with new housing and a parking structure will be built where family housing currently is.

Wilcox said that the campus administration hopes to knock down the housing in 12 to 24 months and break ground on the new center when possible.The relocation of these families has yet to be determined.

To many students, this is a welcomed addition considering the cancellation of the Heat Music Festival this year, as well as in 2014. Vice President of Finance Shafi Karim has advocated for Heat on behalf of many students, but in a statement he said, “I think the Master Plan and Event center is a good idea future Highlanders will definitely enjoy it. However, I’ll caution Chancellor Wilcox and the rest of the administrations to not only focus on end result but be mindful of the process it will take to get there and how it will affect the current UCR community.”

This sentiment was echoed by other members of the UCR community, such as Vice President of R’Kids — a student advocacy group for parents — Cheyenne Mata, who lives in family housing along with the R’Kids board members said, “As for how this will affect the children, well the obvious answer is they will lose their home. No the chancellor’s office has not reached out to either us as an organization or the community that lives within family housing.”

Louis Vandenberg, director of KUCR expressed his concerns in the meeting, saying that the station has not been included in the conversation about the expansion and that he is afraid some facilities are being replaced. One of Vandenberg’s concerns is that “it would be extremely expensive to replace what we (KUCR) have created and I hope that we can be a part of the conversation going forward.” Wilcox said the planning committee plans to speak with everyone who may be affected, but it is difficult considering the size of the expansion.

Some renovations that can be seen sooner is the renovation of Pierce and Batchelor Halls. Construction on these halls will begin this summer to create more classroom space and will be fitted with new air-conditioning systems.

Two new buildings will also be built over the next two years, starting with the creation of the Multidisciplinary Research Building 1 (MRB-1) in late summer and MRB-2 in the summer of 2017. These buildings will be made to “encourage collaboration across the departments,” but they will not include any classroom space.

Wilcox also aims to make the campus more pedestrian friendly, by making University Avenue continue through the current walkway — by the Amy Harrison Field next to Lot 19 —  and create a transportation area where students can be picked up by buses and other drivers.

Also included are the plans for a new health pavilion, STEM center and the California Air Resources Board Building. The California Air Resources Building will be built on a plot of land where the citrus orchards are currently located off of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and the STEM center will be built off of Box Springs Road. The site for the health pavilion has not yet been confirmed.
The Physical Master Plan will be released to the public by the end of this month.

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