The first of more than 150 buildings was claimed by a wrecker on Monday, July 22, at a shuttered housing complex that will become the site of a massive student housing expansion at UC Riverside.
The razing of the 50-acre, World War II-era housing complex that came to be known as Canyon Crest Family Student Housing began on July 22 with a small bungalow, with the first blows struck around 10:15 a.m.
Andy Plumley, assistant vice chancellor for auxiliary services, climbed into the wrecker and took the first swing, tearing into the roof of the house with the claws of the heavy machinery. He grinned and gave a thumbs-up sign as he got out.
Two other UCR employees who had worked at the housing complex, Craig Kasten and Trent Mabee, each took a swing with a sledgehammer, putting a few dents into the wall of the house.
A construction worker then took over and within 20 minutes had torn the house down to the ground with the wrecker.
About two dozen people gathered to watch the demolition at the site next to the Early Childhood Services Center North. Most in the group had worked in some capacity at the housing complex through the years.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Sandra Martinez, who worked as a building maintenance worker at the complex in 2002. “I can’t believe it’s finally happening.”
Martinez, now custodial services manager for Facilities Services, was part of the “turnover team” that prepared the homes for new families before they moved in. She recalled the complex as a beautiful community for families who would barbecue and hold picnics at the park. While sad to see it go, Martinez said she was looking forward to seeing it transform into new housing.
Kasten, assistant director of resources at Facilities Services, began as a carpenter for Family Student Housing in 1994. Back then, there was already talk of it being torn down in four or five years.
“I never expected it to be here this long,” Kasten said.
The demolition will make way for the North District project, which includes massive student housing complexes, athletic fields, and multipurpose space. The first phase should open in fall 2021, with about 1,500 new beds in 400 apartment-style units similar to those at Glen Mor. The complex will in time house as many as 6,000 students.
It’s a complement to a separate project, construction of the 760-bed Dundee Residence Hall and 830-seat Glasgow dining facility. Those projects are underway behind the Aberdeen-Inverness housing complex, in the former Lot 22 parking lot.
Canyon Crest Family Student Housing had its genesis with the March Field air base, east of Riverside, as March Field Housing. Built in 1941, it provided housing for military personnel and their families stationed at March Field and Camp Haan.
By 1945, the complex included a day care, community hall/movie house, grocery store, and community newspaper.
After World War II, the military personnel gradually left the complex, and were replaced with public assistance clients. The government retained control with the breakout of the Korean War in the early 1950s.
In 1954, the Regents of the University of California system had decided to add a four-year liberal arts college to the existing Citrus Experiment Station. In 1955, for a price of $600,000, the university assumed ownership of the complex. It was historically used for graduate students who were married and/or had families.
“The people that lived here really loved it,” Kasten recalled.
At the time of demolition, the complex included 88 single units and 90 duplex units. The units were built with flat roofs, and gabled roofs were added later to many of the structures.
Canyon Crest closed in summer 2017 with campus officials saying the complex had become outdated with frequent power outages and water, sewer, and electrical systems in need of constant updates.
Since then, families in need of housing can apply online for an apartment home space at Oban Family Housing , located at Canyon Crest Drive and Linden Street, across from the UCR Police Department.
Razing the entire site will take about six to eight months, but crews will first clear the area where the new housing is planned, so foundation work can begin in mid-September, said Jeremy Morgan, a senior project manager with Morley Builders, the contractor handling the project.
Plumley said demolition will concentrate on the eastern half of the site first, going north to south.