Reaching the First Higher-Education P3 Deal in the U.S.

In a historic achievement in innovative project delivery, we helped The Regents of the University of California (Regents) reach commercial and financial close on their UC Merced 2020 Project, a major campus expansion to accommodate the university’s rapidly growing student body.


With our guidance, the Regents entered into an unprecedented $1.3 billion P3 agreement with Plenary Properties Merced LLC (PPM) for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of a broad mix of academic, residential, student life, and recreational facilities at UC Merced for a 39-year contract term. The PPM team includes Plenary Group as sole equity member of PPM, Webcor Builders as lead contractor, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Inc. as lead campus planner and Johnson Controls Inc. as lead operations and maintenance firm.

UC Merced, the youngest of the 10 University of California campuses, first opened its doors in September 2005 and had an enrollment of 875 students in its inaugural year. A decade later, the number of students has grown to 6,700 with a record 22,632 students seeking admission for the 2016-17 academic year. To accommodate the university’s rapidly expanding student body, which is projected to reach 10,000 students in five to seven years, the UC Merced 2020 Project will nearly double the physical capacity of the campus, adding 790,000 square feet of critically needed facilities including classrooms and laboratories, a central dining facility, academic offices and housing facilities.

Under the project agreement, availability payments are based on availability of applicable project facilities for campus activities – such as academic study, teaching, research, student life, athletics, recreation, university management and administration, student residence, parking, dining, and events – and PPM’s performance of the operation and maintenance services.

We also advised on the financing structure for the project, which includes the university’s external financing and campus funds, together with Plenary’s equity investment and private placement of long-term, senior notes.

The campus expansion will allow UC Merced, one of the most diverse campuses in the country, to continue to serve its growing student body, which is comprised of many students from low-income family backgrounds and who are the first in their family to attend a four-year college.

Delivered on time and on budget in summer 2020, the groundbreaking UC Merced 2020 Project serves as a model for future higher education capital projects, both within the University of California system and across the country.


  • This was the first higher education availability payment P3 project awarded in the U.S.
  • The project included unique features, including the execution of the Early Works Agreement between the university and PPM upon the selection of PPM as the successful proposer. The Early Works Agreement allowed PPM to begin preliminary design and early construction work prior to the execution of the project agreement and financial close.
  • The project also included the concept of First and Second Delivery Facilities, which prioritized the delivery of certain project facilities to better accommodate anticipated campus growth.


  • Certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum | US Green Building Council, 2021
  • “Best Social Infrastructure Project” gold award |  P3 Bulletin, 2017
  • “Government Agency of the Year” silver award |  P3 Bulletin, 2017
  • "Americas P3 Deal of the Year" |  Project Finance International, 2016
  • "North American Social Infrastructure Deal of the Year"  |  IJ Global, 2016
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