UC Merced 2020 campus expansion project moves forward, some buildings set to open as early as next summer

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The skyline at UC Merced is changing. (KFSN)

The skyline at UC Merced is changing.

It has only been about a year since the groundbreaking of the university's 2020 Project, but three new buildings are already set to open as early as next summer.

"It's exciting, it's as if we're building a small city because we're putting up 13 new buildings within a span of 3 years," said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland.

Leland, says a new dining hall, as well as two other buildings that will double as residence halls and classrooms, are about halfway done.

The new residence hall will have about 712 beds. Leland says on-campus housing will help with graduation retention and the housing problem that can be seen throughout the city.

"It's a huge priority. There's a housing shortage, rental shortage--most people in Merced know it. It's difficult for students to find affordable housing.

The project expands all the way to Downtown Merced, where crews are putting the finishing touches on the school's downtown building that's expected to house at least 300 employees starting late January.

A new traffic light sits at the recently opened intersection along Bellevue and Lake Road is helping with traffic congestion during construction.

Another parking lot is now open to students, which they say has made finding a spot on campus and walking to class--a lot easier.

I feel like the parking lot was just a good investment because we brought in more students. We didn't have parking spots so now that they came in, no parking spots. It's better, it's a lot better," said student Andrea Duran.

"Usually around this time, it'd be impossible to find parking and now it's opened up," said student Alexis Martinez.

Several research buildings and more residence halls are underway as at least 400 crew members work on site six days a week, orchestrating the sounds of progress.

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