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New UC Berkeley Richmond campus development put on hold due to funding decline

on September 30, 2014

UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) announced that construction of the future Richmond research facility has come to a temporary halt due to a decline in federal and University funding.

At a meeting late last week, UC Berkeley Development Manager Therezia Nemeth said, “We don’t have funding. We depend on grants and on the private sector, on the relationships that we can build.”

She did not say when the project would resume. Nemeth added that the University is looking at private companies to leverage funds for the continuing construction and development of the Richmond research facilities.

In an effort to make the future Lab appealing to private investors, Nemeth also announced a change in the project’s name from Richmond Bay Campus to Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay, saying that the prestige of the Berkeley name would help bring in investors.

The Richmond research campus, spread across 81 acres of mostly undeveloped land and known as the Richmond Field Station, lies between the Richmond Annex and Marina Bay neighborhoods.  Construction of the new campus for the LBNL, which has outgrown its present Berkeley home, is expected to bring hundreds of new jobs to Richmond and spur millions of dollars in economic activity.

Last week’s meeting of the so-called “Working Group,” consisted of representatives of UC Berkeley,  LBNL, and the Richmond community. In May UC Berkeley and LBNL signed an agreement promising that the project would include support for Richmond schools, as well as training and local hiring for Richmond residents.

“We’re very excited about the Richmond Lab,” said Ruth Vasquez-Jones, the CEO of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.

Participants in the Thursday meeting, including Jim Becker, President of the Richmond Community Foundation and Don Woodrow, President of the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council, also shared their positive take of the Lab’s future.

“There’s a lot of support from the Richmond community in this project,“ said Becker, “but these projects take an enormous amount of time.”

Said Woodrow: “People have real interest in jobs. We have skilled people — plumbers, electricians, etc. and we want to get as many benefits as possible.”

At the meeting, Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay gave a presentation on the residential and commercial development that could come with the development of the new campus. A retail market could take up to 13 acres and create 13,000 new jobs, according to a city land use plan. 4070 new residential units could be built around the campus, according to the report, attracting some 10,000 new residents.

“I think there’s space for optimism,” said LBNL Community Relations spokesman Armando Viramontes.

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