Campus construction reaches its peak

V. Paul

During the Twin Cities’ summer construction season, crews filled more than just a few potholes around the Minneapolis campus.
At least three holes were dug along Church Street, one pit behind the Mechanical Engineering building and another larger pit behind Coffman Union.
“I’ll guarantee you I’ll have the largest hole,” said Tony Armlin, joking about the Riverbend Commons excavation, which is headed by Armlin North and Associates.
They were among 11 major construction projects at various levels of completion along the Washington Avenue and Church Street corridors. Most will continue heavily through fall semester.
From Northrop Plaza to the South Mall, construction crews will be digging, laying and erecting to complete most of those projects by fall 2000.
“Doing this amount of construction in a very condensed time frame will minimize the duration of the inconvenience,” said Anna McDonagh. “We’ll be very inconvenienced all over campus for a year, but look at all this construction being done.”
The construction activities include building renovations, new building construction and public works and building maintenance work.

South of the Mall
The sidewalk on the south side of Washington Avenue will be closed to pedestrian traffic because of the continuing demolition of Owre and Millard halls and Lyon Labs, set to be completed in October.
Excavation of the site will follow to make way for the new Molecular and Cellular Biology building, to be located in the medical and biological science heart of the University. After digging out the site, construction crews will drive long metal beams, called piles, into the ground to stabilize the construction area.
“Pile driving will be the most notable construction activity,” said Earl North, Armlin North’s other co-principal heading up the science building project. “It’s a dynamic thing to watch.” Because most of the pile driving will occur within the excavation, the “noise will be going up as opposed to out,” he said.
Piles were placed adjacent to Delaware Street along the nearly completed excavation to keep the road from collapsing during the $78.6 million Riverbend project behind Coffman Union. Construction crews will begin setting the footings and foundation for the parking garage and student housing complex, which are slated for completion by fall 2000.
“We love to pile drive,” Armlin said. “We pile drive a lot.”
This first phase of the Riverbend project preceded a new set of proposed renovations to Coffman Union which include rotating the building so its main doors open onto Delaware Avenue. The student union will be completely remodeled inside, expanded into the parking garage beneath it, and the rear of Coffman will host a winter garden.
Renovations, which the Board of Regents will consider for approval on Sept. 9, also include building a main road between Washington Avenue and the extension of Delaware Avenue behind the union. If approved this fall, construction will begin spring 2000 and be completed by fall 2001.
Other renovations still in the design phase involve lowering Washington Avenue by six to 10 feet and building an improved transitway for city and campus buses. That transitway could also contain a light-rail transit line between St. Paul and Minneapolis if the transportation system is approved. Two new foot bridges and a tunnel will also cross Washington Avenue, connecting Northrop Mall and the University tunnel system to the union.
“The whole mobility, pedestrian circulation connectivity, just a better flow of people is going to be great,” Armlin said. “Coffman is going to be a big piece of it.”

Along the Mall
North of the student union, the ongoing renovations to Ford, Amundson and Murphy halls are still on track, scheduled for completion between December 1999 and January 2000. Pedestrian traffic along Church Street will be hampered by bulldozers and backhoes between Pillsbury Street and Washington Avenue as crews work in at least three different excavation sites.
Directly in front of Amundson Hall, construction crews worked on a Minneapolis sewer separation project. That project will separate the sanitation sewer system from the storm sewers. Crews are building a tunnel connecting Murphy and Ford halls.
Between Murphy Hall and Tate Laboratories, crews are boring a pipeline underneath Church Street to the Mechanical Engineering building, laying chiller pipes. These pipes will funnel cold water from the basement of the Mechanical Engineering building, providing air conditioning for Murphy and Ford halls, and potentially Vincent Hall and Tate Laboratories.
A similar project is also underway at Pillsbury Hall, linking Northrop Memorial Auditorium’s chiller plant to the Architecture building.
Laying pipes underneath streets without any large-scale excavation is a technique used in urban areas to avoid major disruption to the community, McDonagh said.

Atop the Mall
The center portion of Northrop Plaza was closed for a 14-month repair project to the parking garage roof below it. Construction crews using skid loaders will remove concrete slabs from the plaza floor to gain access to 16 inches of dirt and the parking garage ceiling underneath, determining what repairs will be needed to the 33-year-old structure.
Because the repair project also involves installing a new waterproof membrane to protect the garage, fall and spring convocations will not be held on the plaza. The entrances of Morrill and Johnston halls, as well as Northrop Memorial Auditorium, will be closed spring 2000 when the entire plaza is cordoned off. It will cost $5 million to repair the plaza.
“It’s interesting how things have set upon each other,” said Tim Busse. “The capital allotment we got from the Legislature led to a lot of different things. Sort of like the seed money idea — throw a little money at a project and more money is attracted to it. That seems to be the case with campus revitalization.”