U eyes ousting campus eyesore

Bryce Haugen

It was never even finished.

But 44 years after construction crews broke ground on the $1.3 million structure, the Science Classroom Building and its baffling stairwells might soon be demolished.

As a part of its bonding bill request to state legislators, the University is asking for $41.3 million to replace the aging facility with a science teaching and student services center on the northeast side of the Washington Avenue Bridge. The project still must receive approval from the state Legislature, but some politicians from both parties have said they support it.

“There’s a very odd gray building that looks like it was built maybe with recycled materials in the late ’50s or something,” said Gov. Tim Pawlenty, describing the building at a Tuesday news conference, when he outlined his bonding bill recommendations. “It needs to be redone; that’s a gateway to the University campus.”

The new building would house four new lecture halls specially equipped for physics and chemistry classes and a consolidated “one-stop shop for student services,” as Pawlenty called it.

Various student services would move to the center, including Fraser Hall’s One Stop location, student leadership programs and many scattered career services offices, said Lincoln Kallsen, the Office of Budget and Finance’s director of financial research, who’s been crunching numbers for the project.

Kallsen said approximately half of the student population would pass by the building each day, making it the perfect place for “One Stop on steroids.”

“That’s the epicenter of student traffic,” he said.

He said the center would emphasize flexibility, adjusting to evolving student service needs.

University director of classroom management Steve Fitzgerald said the new building would replace out-of-date classrooms with new, state-of-the-art facilities.

“It will provide the quality of classrooms we want our education programs to have,” he said.

If the Legislature signs off on the building, it should be ready for students by some time in 2009, said Orlyn Miller, University director of planning and architecture.

Fitzgerald said his department is already planning for the construction period, when classes in the Science Classroom Building will need temporary homes. All classes will go on as scheduled.

“That’s going to require the participation and cooperation of lots of people,” he said.

The Science Classroom Building was designed to have several additional floors above the existing structure, according to University records. Since the late ’70s, the University floated several ideas for the site, but none were approved.

University records show that by 1988 the land was considered “as a potential building site for future projects,” but also say “its future is uncertain.”

Miller said that this time, “there’s a good chance that (construction) will happen.”

Several University students and staff said they look forward to a replacement for what University President Bob Bruininks has called the ugliest building on campus.

Sharon Haller, program associate in the Center for Teaching and Learning Services, said she has to walk either through a lecture hall or use the stairs to go outside just to get to the other side of the building.

“It’s just not logically constructed,” she said, standing in the windowless entryway to her office.

But, she said, “I’d feel safe if we had a tornado.”

Geophysics graduate student Nick Pester said he won’t miss the building, which “the University kind of abandoned.”

He said he’ll have “no nostalgia ” except for being lost.”