Facilities plan aims to upgrade St. Paul campus

The plan is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

The sun begins to rise over St. Paul campus on April 19, 2017.

Courtney Deutz

The sun begins to rise over St. Paul campus on April 19, 2017.

by Caitlin Anderson

A plan to improve the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus is one step closer to finalization following a presentation to the Board of Regents on Thursday.

The St. Paul Strategic Facilities Plan, which was introduced last spring, aims to revamp the St. Paul campus. The plan is currently in its consultation phase and will be completed by the end of the year.

“We have been working kind of continuously to make progress on the plan,” said Mike Berthelsen, vice president of University Services. “These campus-wide frameworks take a fair amount of time and involve a lot of people on the way.”

The ideas proposed at the board meeting included changes to five areas of the campus: Buford Civic Spine, Buford Circle, Veterinary Medicine and Hospital Zone, NE Quadrant Partnership Development and Commonwealth Terrace Co-Op.

Goals of the plan include renovating the student commons, as well as creating new facilities to draw researchers to the University for partnerships.

Some regents voiced skepticism about the plan’s development — ranging from wanting to first focus on an academic strategy for shaping the campus, to calculating student enrollment numbers to fully understanding the scope of the project.

“I think we have to first articulate the long-term academic strategy for the St. Paul campus,” said Regent David McMillan during the meeting. “Once we have that, then implement a campus plan that supports the academic strategies.”

The plan’s goal is to preserve the campus as a core component of the Twin Cities campus financially, physically and academically.

“Until we really decide what the size of the campus can be in terms of student body, we can’t really go through and figure out what the strategic vision of the facilities plan is,” said Regent Michael Hsu. “They have a lot of great ideas, but, you know, how are you going to pay for all this stuff?”

Berthelsen said the ideas are not finalized and remain an overarching vision. “[The ideas] are not a capital investment plan yet,” he said.

Despite criticisms, the developmental phase will move forward.

“We are definitely still in the planning and consultation process,” said Kenzie Barth, the student senator of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Undergraduate Student Board. “Students right now are kind of in a waiting game.”

Students said they still feel hopeful the plan will be implemented even though progress is slow.

“I was excited that they were finally paying attention and realizing that St. Paul needs to be updated,” said Rachel Anderson, a graphic design major who spends every day on St. Paul campus.

Barth said she feels that the concerns of the student board are being heard.

“That’s been really refreshing to see that administrators are willing to invest in [the] St. Paul campus,” Barth said. “We are really excited to see this renewed investment.”

A student board meeting will be held in the coming weeks to discuss the plan. The plan is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

“There’s a sense that the campus lacks a certain continuity and energy,” Berthelsen said. “If we put the right programs and buildings in spaces in the right context with each other, we think we can enhance that.”