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UC Board of Regents approve funding for proposed Luskin Conference and Guest Center

Chancellor Gene Block answers follow-up questions about the newly approved Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference and Guest Center.

By Suzy Strutner

July 17, 2012 5:43 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article contained an error. The project has been in debate for over a year and a half. In January 2011, the Luskins donated $40 million for the center’s construction.

The UC Board of Regents voted unanimously to fund a proposed conference center on the UCLA campus during their bimonthly board meeting today.

The $152 million Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference and Guest Center will house 25,000 square feet of meeting space, 250 guest rooms and a new parking garage on Westwood Plaza and Strathmore Drive, replacing Parking Structure 6.

The center will be funded by a $40 million donation from Meyer and Renee Luskin ““ the namesakes of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs ““ and $112 million in bonds.

An additional $10.4 million will be used to build a new campus catering kitchen and upgrade Gateway Plaza, the traffic turnabout near the center at the main entrance to campus.

The project has been in debate for over a year and a half. In January 2011, the Luskins donated $40 million for the center’s construction.

The regents were expected to vote on budget and finances for the conference center in late March, but withheld approval, citing concerns over the expenses involved with the project.

Some regents had questioned why UCLA would undertake the financial burden of building a new center instead of purchasing and renovating a local hotel.

Members of the board reacted positively to presentations about the center during today’s meeting, thanking UCLA officials for answering questions that surfaced in March when the project was first introduced to the regents.

“We needed time to ask a series of questions,” Regent Hadi Makarechian said during today’s meeting. “Today we have a much more clear understanding of this item.”

After the extra time for consideration and UCLA’s upgraded presentation, the board concluded that the center was a necessity for the university, Makarechian said.

“It’s impressive how much the regents checked the financial model and plan,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

He added that the center’s guest rooms will make academic conferences more convenient, as guests will no longer have to shuttle back and forth from a campus conference location like they do now.

“It changes the whole nature of a meeting when you can spend time with people,” Block said. “I can’t wait.”

Construction on the center will begin next summer, and the project is slated to be finished in the summer of 2016, said Steve Olsen, UCLA vice chancellor for finance, budget and capital programs.

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