Project Description

Emeryville Center of Community Life

Housing a school and community center in a single facility seems obvious. A logical way to utilize tax dollars for the greatest community benefit. That’s what the City of Emeryville and Emery Unified School District thought when they first came up with the vision for a single-site school and community center back in 2003.

But California Education Code restricted mixed use of school facilities. The City of Emeryville and Emery Unified School District responded with a 6-year campaign that successfully amended the legislation. When the initial master plan for the center came in at $200 million, well beyond the municipal budget, they brought in MKThink, with partners dsk, and Concordia to re-master the plan to fit the budget without compromising core needs.

MKThink knew community input was critical. The project team led over 20 participatory design workshops that actively engaged the city council, school board, district staff, teachers, and community members—from students to seniors in the planning process. The workshops established common ground among disparate stakeholders and developed design criteria for a center that would serve citizens in every stage of life.

Armed with this collective intelligence, MKThink and partners designed a facility of highly flexible spaces, strategically programmed to maximize utilization. The design reduced the initial estimates by 52%, to a feasible $96 million. The master plan won the approval of the city council and school board and the $65 million bond measure needed to fund it.

The Emeryville Center of Community Life is the nation’s first joint school and community center. The 130,000-SF center consolidates a K-12 public school, community center, social service agencies, and arts and recreation into one centralized campus.

The city’s youngest residents benefit from daycare and early childhood education programs. School-age children learn in state-of-the-art classrooms and pursue extracurricular activities in afterschool programs that range from athletic to artistic. Berkeley City College operates on site to deliver job training programs and college courses. There is a designated lounge for senior citizens and a wellness center to provide health and dental services to citizens of all ages. Recreation resources include a cardio fitness center, dance studio, and swimming pool. The outdoor area features multi-use athletic fields, playgrounds, and community greenspace.

The ECCL is a model for both civic partnership and flexible design schemes. “Communities across the nation will be looking to Emeryville to emulate our unique partnership,” said School Board President John Affeldt.  The Center makes judicious use of taxpayer dollars—maximizing facility utilization while establishing a community hub to strengthen the bonds between Emeryville’s citizens. The ECCL was recognized in 2017 with an esteemed ULI Global Award for Excellence.


Emeryville Center of Community Life


Redistricting Development, Feasibility Assessment,
Conceptual Design, Design Development,
Schematic Design, Master Planning,
Stakeholder Engagement, Programming,
Entitlements, DSA Review


Emeryville, CA


2013 – 2016




7 Acres  | 130,000 SF


City of Emeryville & Emery Unified School District