University revamps former mineral research building

The $21.7 million project will house three U departments by fall 2007.

by Daniel Groth

Eight years after University President Bob Bruininks first proposed restoring an old taconite-research building, a new college prepares to reap the benefits.

With funding from the Minnesota Legislature, the University is renovating the former Mineral Resources Research Center, vacant since 1988, along East River Road near Dinkytown.

The Education Sciences Building, a $21.7 million project that began this spring, will house three departments in the

College of Education and Human Development, which debuted in July. Renovations are slated for completion by fall 2007.

Crews are restoring the building’s original 1923 exterior appearance while revamping the interior to provide more than 40,000 square feet of office, research and meeting space for the college.

Besides a new coffee shop, the building will house the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, the Department of Educational Psychology and the Center for Early Educational Development. Future tenants expressed excitement about the project, which will allow the three CEHD departments to collaborate more.

“Right now, the various faculty members are spread throughout six or eight buildings,” said Kyla Wahlstrom, director of CAREI. “This will bring everyone together in one location, providing a greater opportunity for spontaneous moments of conversation, which are important for generating research.”

Increased interaction between departments will enable more comprehensive, broadly based studies, Wahlstrom said.

In addition to increased synergy within the college, the project will provide much-needed space for research, visiting scholars and graduate students, said John Romano, head of the educational psychology department.

The former dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Steve Yussen, who is now a child development professor, led efforts for University approval of the project. He also testified to the Legislature on the building’s behalf, helping to secure funding in the 2005 bonding bill. Yussen stepped down as dean last spring and was replaced in October by Darlyne Bailey.

Bailey applauded Yussen for shepherding the proposal from idea to reality.

“The new building is very important in keeping with where the college is going,” Bailey said. “As we find procedural ways for different ideas to come together, this building will provide an actual structure to encourage multidisciplinary research.”

Project manager Kevin Ross said the building renovations are in line with the Board of Regents’ 1996 master plan.

“One principle of the plan was to maximize the value of existing physical assets, such as this historic building,” he said.

According to Ross, the building had problems with vandalism and vagrants before construction began last spring.

“The University is turning a liability into an asset with this project,” he said.

So far, workers have completed environmental abatement and exterior brick washing of the building. Masonry repairs and interior construction are underway, while window replacement and roofing will begin soon, Ross said.