Construction delay will not push back opening

Sarah Hallonquist

Cranes and bulldozers were supposed to follow on the heels of tubas and trombones that accentuated a November groundbreaking ceremony for a new alumni and visitor center.
But construction on the University Gateway complex, slated for the corner of Oak Street and University Avenue, skidded to a halt and will stay that way until next month. Still, officials said they are confident contractors will finish the building for the August 1999 completion date.
The project is a joint venture of three alumni groups: the University Foundation, the Alumni Association and the University Medical Foundation. Together these organizations formed the Gateway Corporation, a nonprofit group that raises money for the 230,000 square foot building.
Ryan Johnson, director of treasury operations for the University, said the Gateway Corporation took more time in financing and planning the complex.
“They’re not much behind what they originally intended,” Johnson said. “They might have lost about a month in the process.”
Despite the late start date, Johnson said the project managers still think they will finish as scheduled.
The glass, granite and copper building’s tenants will include the Board of Regents and the fund-raising and alumni groups. Plans for a memorabilia store and an admissions information base are in the works, and design proposals for a historical museum, The Heritage Gallery, will be reviewed by Gateway officials in the next month.
Private donations and municipal, tax-exempt bonds are funding the $40 million project. The University is leasing the property to the Gateway Corporation, who will pay back the bonds in the form of lease payments.
Tom LaSalle, owners representative for the Gateway Corporation, said the later start is not a delay, but a detraction from the “fast-track” start the corporation was trying to accomplish in the beginning. Instead of completing the design drawings first, the group planned to build simultaneously.
“If we would’ve started in December or January, the construction would’ve outpaced the drawings,” he said. “We didn’t know these things.”
Mike Ramolae, assistant director of facilities for Parking and Transportation, said contract spaces on the lot were cleared Jan. 5 for construction.
He said if the project were to be delayed a few more weeks to the end of winter quarter, parking services could have sold contracts for about 300 student commuters.
“We’re just one piece of this because they’re building on an existing parking lot,” he said.
In the next two weeks, Mortenson construction company will build a fence around the area and begin digging Gateway’s basement. Soil and water testing began this week.