Kresge renewal project kicks off

The project, starting in October, is designed to preserve the unique architectural and cultural spirit of the original Kresge while updating it to the needs of 21st century students, with a much-needed increase in housing, classroom, and student support space.

A rendering of the new academic building and Kresge College entrance from the north pedestrian bridge. (Rendering by Studio Gang)
Kresge College in 1973. (Photo by Morley Baer)
Rendering of refurbishd Piazzetta. Image from Studio Gang.

This October, UC Santa Cruz will start construction on the first phase of its Kresge renewal project, with plans to add a new academic building and residence halls to the college, refurbish existing buildings, and provide accessibility. 

The campus has already begun preparations for the project, which will initially focus on the northwest corner of Kresge. Visitors will notice some changes, including the installation of fencing around part of the north campus demarcating the Phase 1 project boundary. 

The construction—the result of several years' worth of intensive planning—blends the renovation of existing buildings with new construction. The renewal project is designed to preserve the unique architectural and cultural flavor of the original Kresge while updating it to the needs of 21st century students, with a much-needed increase in residential capacity, classroom seats, and student support space.

“It’s amazing to be at this point in the project, and exciting to start construction after working on this since 2015,” said Jolie Kerns, UC Santa Cruz's campus planner. 

“It is gratifying to deliver new housing for students, and new classrooms that meet the needs of today’s academic community, and to revitalize this cultural resource for the campus,” said Kerns, who is project manager for the Kresge Renewal. 

The renewal project is also designed to make Kresge feel more integrated with the rest of UC Santa Cruz, and less remote. A new academic building faces out, treehouse-style, across a ravine toward the main campus. 

The UC Board of Regents approved the project in March. 

The sixth college to open on campus, Kresge was built in 1973, occupying about eight acres of redwood forest. Designed by architect Charles Moore of Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull and Whitaker (MLTW) with landscape architect Dan Kiley, the college is a cluster of residential, academic, and student support buildings lining a meandering pedestrian street. 

Kresge received international coverage for its clustering of residential, academic and student support buildings nestled in a redwood forest,  as well as its cutting-edge approach to education. This college community of stucco-covered structures also included spaces for informal student engagement organized around a pedestrian spine,  including a “mayor’s stand’’ for impromptu speeches and gatherings. Vertical openings on the buildings’ false facades provided for exterior circulation and views.

But the original college buildings have been showing plenty of wear more than 40 years after their construction. The majority of existing buildings are retained in the Kresge renewal project, as are many familiar landmarks, including the piazzetta, the mayor’s stand, and the “waterfall steps.” 

Site preparation and construction begin this month for phase one of the project, set for completion in Fall 2021,  in time for the start of the academic year. 

This two-year-long first phase of construction will include a cluster of three new residential buildings along Porter-Kresge Road and a new academic building, which will go up on the site of the current Town Hall. Two existing residential buildings will also be renovated.

The Town Hall will be rebuilt and relocated to the southern end of the college in the second phase of the project. Phase one will also include the renovation of several other existing buildings for residential, college life, and student support spaces.  

The new residential halls for first year students will include large social lounges at the ground-floor level, and a new café at the north residential hall building, which will open onto the academic plaza. Additional social lounges will be included at the ends of each floor.  The renovated buildings will include apartments for continuing students and a new study lounge in the south end of building R4.

Builders will also renovate and update the North Bridge, a pedestrian walkway connecting the future academic plaza to Heller Drive; the bridge will be rebuilt with an access ramp so students with mobility challenges can use it to access the college more quickly and conveniently, instead of having to travel across Porter-Kresge Road. That renovation will require the closing of the bridge for approximately nine months, starting in April 2020. It is expected to be back in use by January 2021. 

 Plans for the north section of the Kresge campus also include office space for the  Kresge Academic Administration (provost’s offices), and Humanities, Arts and PB Sci Divisions; and more classrooms, including a 600-seat lecture hall, which would become the largest of its kind on campus; a 150-seat lecture hall; and 50- and 35-seat classrooms. A 48-seat computing lab is also included.

The project uses renewable materials, including cross-laminated timber for the new residential halls and academic building; harvests and reuses captured stormwater for irrigation and toilet flushing; requires no fossil fuel combustion for space and water heating; and is designed to maximize energy efficiency, all to help with the longevity of Kresge, Kerns said. She noted that the retrofitted and new construction will achieve LEED Gold certification for sustainability. 

The overall Kresge project, set for completion in 2023, will add new spaces for student life and support, including student co-ops, study areas and flexible meeting rooms; easier access for students and visitors with disabilities; and an increase in bed spaces from 368 to approximately 550. 

This project would also grow the footprint of Kresge from approximately 133,000 to 200,000 square feet.

Kresge College will remain operational, with the construction process being phased to keep beds online and residential life and academic programs ongoing. 

Inevitably, a project of this scope will impact the Kresge community. For example, the Porter-Kresge access road will remain closed for the next two years.  But UC Santa Cruz is phasing out the building project to minimize impacts as much as possible, Kerns said. Noise impacts from construction will be restricted to the daytime.

“We will have mitigations for noise, including screening at existing buildings being impacted,” Kerns noted. “We are working with Kresge College staff to identify alternative spaces for study if  needed. It is important to note that this is a huge project, immediately adjacent to classrooms and residential space. We work with the academic calendar and try to align construction activities that are the most disruptive to students, staff, faculty with summer or winter breaks so as to minimize adverse impacts. We will continue to work with the Kresge community to make sure we have as little impact on college programs  as possible.” 

Toward that end, she noted that there will continue to be Town Hall open forums throughout construction, to provide information about the project, updates on construction, and public discussion.  These are scheduled this Fall in October, November and December. 

Construction will take place roughly from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Planners will give residents updates week by week to give them a sense of upcoming work. 

Classes will continue at Kresge during all phases of construction.