Samuel Merritt University Breaks Ground on New Campus in Downtown Oakland

Bill Hendee

University and City Officials Gather to Kick Off Construction of Flagship Campus 

Samuel Merritt University (SMU) broke ground on its new flagship campus in Oakland City Center on Monday, April 10. The milestone represents another step forward in SMU’s vision to double enrollment within the next ten years and underscores the 114-year-old institution’s commitment to Oakland. The groundbreaking ceremony was held across from the site of the new campus in downtown Oakland, on 12th Street between Broadway and Clay Street. SMU President Ching-Hua Wang delivered remarks alongside Oakland District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife, members of the SMU Board of Regents, and others. 

“Together we'll move the university forward,” said SMU President Ching-Hua Wang. “Today's event is really about the students and the communities our graduates will serve in the next one hundred years.” 

“Right now, with this building, SMU is poised to form strategic partnerships with healthcare providers to build a robust healthcare workforce pipeline by offering more critically needed programs, doubling and tripling our enrollment, and producing more graduates for future generations of healthcare practitioners and leaders.”

 – Ching-Hua Wang, SMU President 

Samuel Merritt University’s new flagship campus will take shape on land that was once part of the Oakland City Center Redevelopment Plan. In addition to serving as SMU’s academic heart, the new headquarters will help continue the revitalization of Oakland City Center with a new Center for Community Engagement and a publicly accessible plaza, which will feature community programming and bring foot traffic and commercial activity to the area on evenings and weekends.

“When I heard what [SMU] was bringing to the heart of Oakland — the heart of District 3 — in terms of the population that this community will serve, I was sold. We have a deep, deep need for more nursing professionals in the city.”

– Carroll Fife, City of Oakland District 3 Councilmember

In December 2022, SMU secured $139 million in bond financing for construction. The University is investing an additional $120 million of its own reserves to complete the facility. The 260,000-square-foot building was announced November 3. 2022. The project was developed in partnership with Strada Investment Group, an award-winning Bay Area real estate investment group. Last October, the city amended its previous agreement with Strada for the site and negotiated a 99-year ground lease with Samuel Merritt University. The San Francisco Business Times recognized SMU with a Real Estate Deal of the Year Award at a gala on March 30.

Architects Perkins and Will designed the new facility. Hathaway Dinwiddie is the general contractor on the project.