UCLA just spent $35 million to turn claustrophobic locker rooms and a worn-out basketball court into a spacious dance facility, with glass-encased practice rooms and a white marble foyer that grandly connects to the building's classrooms, academic offices and auditoriums.


"There's always more you would like to do," said architect Buzz Yudell, in detailing the renamed Glorya Kaufman Hall. "But I think what we've been able to accomplish here is extraordinary."


And these days, it's hardly unusual. UCLA, which is closing in on a decade-long capital improvement program, has built up nearly every corner of the Westwood campus. "We should change the initials," joked Jeffrey Averill, the university's architect, on a recent tour. "UCLA could stand for Under Construction Los Angeles."


Since 1997, the school has completed, or has under construction, more than $3 billion in projects, such as the re-make of Kaufman Hall, the $44.8 million Physics and Astronomy building and $211 million in student housing.


In various stages of planning and construction are another 42 approved and funded projects with a cumulative budget of $1.7 billion. These include the $52.4 million Edythe L. and Eli Broad Art Center, the $149 million California NanoSystems Institute, the $138 million Life Sciences Replacement Building, and the $700 million Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.


"This has been quite a wave," said Sue Santon, assistant vice chancellor for UCLA capital programs. "I don't see another one quite like it in the future."


To pay for the extensive projects, UCLA has leveraged massive amounts of money it received from federal and state sources for seismic upgrades with private donations, revenues from state bond sales, campus resources and state budget allocations.


Forty percent of the projects are being funded by money earmarked since the 1994 Northridge earthquake for seismic retrofitting of the campus' classic brick buildings.


Besides safety concerns, UCLA is building to meet future growth. The state Board of Regents ordered the school to accept 4,000 additional students, sparking the need for more than 2,000 new dormitory rooms and increased classroom sizes. The new buildings, especially in the sciences, ensure that UCLA can remain a top research institution that can attract high-caliber faculty and stay in the running for lucrative grants.


Like many public universities, UCLA has increasingly relied on private donations to make up for the gap in public funds. In cash-strapped California, the university has taken private fundraising to a new level.

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