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Better Together:
Emeryville Center of Community Life

A groundbreaking joint-use facility that combines K-12 education, community, and healthcare services into one community complex 


Wedged between the larger cities of Berkeley and Oakland, the Emery Unified School District was struggling to sustain and improve its services and facilities. City and district leadership had a thesis that co-locating a set of intergenerational services would yield better community health while improving learning outcomes for its underserved youth. The challenge was to test, validate, design, and implement a functional, operational, and planning solution that would meet the needs of a diverse set of city stakeholders sustainably.


As part of Nexus Partners, MKThink evaluated the cost-benefit of consolidating ten school and service sites into one, renovating existing facilities, or maintaining the status quo. The analysis revealed that a consolidated “center of community life” yielded a long-term cumulative net value of $200 MM greater than maintaining the status quo.

Through intensive community workshops and multi-use schedule design, MKThink helped provide the playbook to deliver Cradle-to-Cradle services in a single optimized campus, meeting the needs of Emeryville families at every stage of life.

Opening in 2016, the resulting 115,000-square-foot physical campus integrated schools with community and family services, arts, and recreation into a place that supports synergies and rich community connections. The center provides a mix of services, from early childhood education and afterschool programs to health and family support services, child-care services, job training, and college courses.


MKThink focused on strategies for optimizing space and scheduling across multiple users and services to ensure the facility maintained a high level of use within a smaller, more cost-effective footprint than a distributed model would have allowed.

80% of Emeryville city voters approved the property-funded tax bond that raised $65 MM in funds to support the construction of the complex. The project ushered in innovative legislation to allow school districts in California to enter joint-use lease agreements with local government, paving the way for others across the state.


Emery Unified School District and City of Emeryville


Scenario Modeling
Space Programming and Scheduling
Concept Development
Architectural Services


Emeryville, CA


178,000 SF


K-12 Education


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