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March 24, 1997

Board of Regents approves master plan for development at the UC MBEST Center

By Robert Irion

The University of California Board of Regents voted on Friday (March 21) to approve the initial stages of the master plan for the UC Monterey Bay Education, Science, and Technology (MBEST) Center, a regional economic development initiative based at the former Fort Ord military reservation near Monterey.

The action clears the way for UCSC, lead campus for the MBEST Center, to begin working in earnest on development activities that will create a community of innovative and forward-thinking researchers and educators at the site, just two miles onshore from Monterey Bay.

The Board of Regents ratified phases one through three of the master plan, which calls for new construction on 127 acres of UC-owned land within the City of Marina, adjacent to the Marina Municipal Airport. Projections indicate that this development could create between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs. The property will provide room for about 1.3 million square feet of space for research and development, light industry, and commercial and mixed uses. Development is expected to last for about 15 years.

Future phases of development, not yet considered by the Board of Regents, would occur on 357 acres of adjacent UC-owned land within Monterey County. The MBEST site also encompasses 605 acres of unique maritime chaparral. This land, now called the Fort Ord Natural Reserve, is protected as part of the UC Natural Reserve System, thereby reducing the adverse effects of development on other MBEST property and throughout the former base.

On the developable land, MBEST planners envision a research and technology park that will draw especially upon the strengths of nearly two dozen research and educational institutions that freckle the perimeter of Monterey Bay. However, the alliances and interactions fostered by the center should extend far beyond its physical boundaries, helping to place the Monterey Bay region in a prime position in the 21st century's global economy.

"The MBEST Center is designed to open doors to new partnerships in government and industry and to help create a regional economy that will complement our teaching and research programs," Chancellor Greenwood told the Board of Regents. "MBEST is part of the strategic planning for both the Santa Cruz campus and the economy of the central California coast."

Lora Lee Martin of UCSC, director of the MBEST Center, foresees increased interest from potential tenants now that the Board of Regents has acted. But even without a marketing effort by the university, about 30 companies to date have inquired about occupying future space at the center.

"The Monterey Bay Research Crescent already is a region of innovation and discovery," Martin said. "In the coming decades, we will see many more new opportunities bloom here. The MBEST Center seeks to identify and catalyze those new opportunities as the world moves rapidly into a knowledge-based industry."

Early in their planning efforts, Martin and her colleagues settled upon four areas of activity that would form the core of future development at MBEST: environmental science, technology, and instrumentation, especially coastal applications; biotechnology, emphasizing agricultural and marine applications; information science and technology; and multimedia education and entertainment. Entrepreneurial companies that focus on one or more of those areas will find eager collaborators in the region, Martin notes, as well as in nearby Silicon Valley and throughout the UC system and its affiliated national laboratories.

Current MBEST tenants include Systems West, a satellite weather-technology company; UCSC Extension, which offers classes in environmental remediation and other topics; and the Pacific Cetacean Group, a nonprofit education and research organization.

In October, UCSC received $1 million from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce to plan and construct a new building at the MBEST site. This building, the second permanent facility at the center, should open by late 1998.

An earlier EDA grant of $1.2 million funded the work of two teams of consultants on the master plan; a business plan, which recommends a functional structure and evaluates the center's short-term and long-term financial feasibility; and a market analysis, which recommends actions for the region and the university to attract educational and research businesses. The grant also funded the work of MBEST staff at UCSC.

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