UC Riverside is beginning construction this fall on a new student housing complex that represents a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Riverside Community College District, or RCCD.
A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 8 for the North District Phase 2 project, which will add 1,568 new beds in two apartment-style buildings at the northeast corner of Canyon Crest Drive and W. Linden Street.
In September, the University of California Board of Regents approved the $347.8 million project budget, allowing construction to go forward, with the complex expected to open in summer 2025.
In a presentation to the Regents, Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox said the new project will help meet continued high demand for on-campus student housing. In the last few years, UCR has added 2,300 new beds – with North District Phase 1 and Dundee Residence Hall – but still has a shortfall.
Wilcox said an important facet of North District Phase 2 is the partnership with RCCD, in which a portion of the beds will be allocated for community college students.
“We’re really excited about what that means in terms of tying the community together and an opportunity to help students at the community college think about life at a four-year university and be part of that environment before they make the actual transfer,” he said.
Both UCR and RCCD leaders, who have sought to encourage transfers to the UC system, describe the shared housing complex as a novel way to prepare community college students.
"The joint UCR and RCCD intersegmental housing project is a holistic and innovative approach designed to break down cultural and psychological barriers surrounding access, success, and equity by immersing first-generation, low-income students into the full UCR experience,” said RCCD Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac. “This unique and innovative approach will serve as a model for others to emulate."
Most community colleges don’t offer student housing and the project will be a first for RCCD. But it’s an issue RCCD officials have been concerned about as Inland housing prices have risen.
“Many of our students can’t afford the rent in Riverside homes and apartments,” said FeRita Carter, vice president of Student Services for RCCD. “This new housing project will make it possible for them to live close to RCC, close to classrooms, and close to all of the educational resources they need to succeed.”
The partnership made the project eligible for $126 million in state money which UCR and RCCD jointly applied for and was approved in July.
The state funding will pay for 652 beds, which will be available to students at below-market low-income rents. Half of those will be for UCR students and half for RCCD students. The remaining 916 beds would be rented to UCR students at affordable rents similar to other campus apartment housing, said Heidi Scribner, associate vice chancellor of Auxiliary Services, which includes Housing Services.
The low-income units will be interspersed throughout the complex while RCCD students will have the same services and amenities as other residents with housing contracts patterned similarly to those of UCR students. RCCD students will be a short walk from Riverside Transit Agency bus routes that connect to Riverside City College.
As a result of the state funding, UCR was able to accelerate the timeline for construction of North District Phase 2, which originally was set to start next year. The first phase opened in September 2021.
The Office of Planning, Design and Construction, or PD&C, fast-tracked construction by using the design-build model, in which it brought in contractors and the design team early, breaking the project into segments, said Jerry Mercado, a senior project manager with PD&C. This allowed them to shorten the construction timeline by at least six months, he said.
The complex will be built on 4.5 acres to the west of North District Phase 1. Its prominent location will make it a significant entry point into the campus from the north and west, serving as a gateway corridor and tying the campus to the community, said Jacqueline Norman, campus architect and associate vice chancellor.
“The housing development will feature a prominent two-story pedestrian arcade along Canyon Crest Drive, offering a shaded walkway,” she said. “A small café will be located along this arcade for residents and the community to enjoy.”
The buildings, up to seven stories high, will include fitness space, laundry facilities, meeting rooms, and group study space. There will also be a parking lot, a community park, and recreation fields just north of North District Phase 1.
Mercado said the design, which includes courtyards, creates a community feel where students will want to gather.
“It’s an exciting project for the campus,” he said. “This is something special.”