Changes are coming to Downtown Merced

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UC Merced kicks off a 2020 expansion project as the city of Merced starts a project of its own. (KFSN)

UC Merced kicks off a 2020 expansion project as the city of Merced starts a project of its own. The city plans to renovate two iconic downtown buildings and develop a multi-purpose building for new apartments and businesses.

The projects are expected to take a couple of years.

"A successful city is one that has a thriving downtown, and right now, we're on our way," said Steve Carrigan, Merced City Manager.

The El Capitan building now looks empty and tattered, but in two years it will be a 100 room contemporary-style boutique hotel.

"It will be a lot bigger and it's going to be an iconic building. It'll be one that people say, "ah, I remember Merced and that the building, I remember from it," said Frank Quintero, Economic Development.

City officials said UC Merced is the catalyst for these projects. They also plan to build a multi-purpose building that will have more than 50 apartments on top, while some businesses will be housed in the bottom.

Carrigan said these projects bring jobs during their construction as well as new jobs once their doors open. He said they want to stay close to their roots, but attract more activity and visitors to the area.

"We want to keep our agricultural base, but want to be a college town like Chico or Davis where it's vibrant and exciting. And UC Merced is the catalyst behind this.

The university will soon open their downtown facility capable of housing hundreds of employees next year. While it will strengthen their partnership with downtown, they also hope more alumni will stay and live in the city.

"As they graduate from UC Merced some are staying in Merced and opening businesses and starting those opportunities to really create a strong community partnership," said Charles Nies, UC Merced Vice Chancellor.

The city said they do not have a timeline yet, but do say they expect the projects to be ready within two years.

In the meantime, they said they hope the projects creates more synergy downtown, and that more businesses will come and open their doors downtown.

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