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UC Board of Regents grants final approval for UCLA conference center

[Update, Sept. 13: The full Board of Regents has approved the project's final design plans and a final environmental impact report.
The University of California Board of Regents' Committee on Grounds and Buildings today cleared the way for UCLA to begin construction next year on the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference and Guest Center, a project that will enhance civic engagement on campus and allow UCLA to compete with other universities for important academic conferences.
"We are grateful to the Regents for their support and very careful review of this visionary project that will directly support UCLA's academic mission," said Vice Chancellor Steve Olsen, UCLA's chief financial officer. "This will satisfy a longstanding need at UCLA for additional guest rooms and more modern conference space where faculty and students can exchange ideas with scholars from all over the world."

The UC Regents committee on Tuesday approved the project's final design plans as well as a final environmental impact report that was developed with public input following two hearings on campus. A vote by the full board is expected Thursday.

Construction on the seven-story building, which will include 25,000 square feet of meeting space and 250 guest rooms, is expected to begin next summer, with completion anticipated by 2016.

The $152 million center will be erected at the center of campus, on property currently occupied by Parking Structure 6, utilizing $40 million of a previously announced gift from alumni and longtime supporters Meyer and Renee Luskin. The remaining $112 million will be financed, but with minimal impact on UCLA's long-term debt. The project will be self-sustaining, officials stressed, not utilizing any state funds or tuition revenue.

Complete details are available at a website dedicated to the project.
Regents unanimously approved UCLA's financial plan for the project in July. That plan was also reviewed by the UCLA Academic Senate's Council on Planning and Budget, which similarly determined that the center's financing model is sound and that the university could benefit from additional conference space and affordable guest rooms.

Numerous faculty members have long expressed the need for such a facility on campus, describing the challenge of finding reasonably priced hotel rooms and adequate meeting space.

The center would not compete with local hotels for tourists and other business travelers because guests must have business with the university in order to book a room, similar to existing policies at the UCLA Guest House and Tiverton House, which offer a combined 161 rooms and are frequently at or near capacity.
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