Capital request approved

The Board of Regents signed off on the school’s 2016 capital request at Friday’s meeting.

Erica Mahoney

The University of Minnesota will request more than $230 million from the state Legislature this year for building projects as part of the school’s 2016 capital request.
The request was approved by the Board of Regents last week and includes funds for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement projects, an addition to the plant growth research facilities on the St. Paul campus and academic and student experience investments.  
This year’s legislative session will also include a bonding bill, in which lawmakers will designate money to go to facility construction and maintenance. 
The University’s current request includes $100 million in HEAPR funds to improve the infrastructure, efficiency, safety and systems of buildings across campus. 
“HEAPR is the backbone of our request and our ability to properly maintain our infrastructure,” said Pamela Wheelock, vice president for University Services at the meeting.  
The University will contribute about $70 million for all of the projects.
Wheelock said although HEAPR does not allow for updating a building’s features, the funds help extend the lifetime of the buildings.
Another major project the University hopes to receive state funding for is to design, construct, furnish and equip an addition to the school’s plant growth research facility, which hasn’t been funded by state lawmakers in the University’s lab renovation request in recent years. 
“Our statewide mission around agriculture leads to the plant growth research facility benefiting the entire state, not just the Twin Cities campus,” said University President Eric Kaler at last week’s meeting.
To enhance the academic and student experience across the University’s five campuses, the school will also ask for a $16 million investment from the Legislature for a systemwide goal to update classroom technology.
“We’ve seen that technology changes, and our classrooms need to change,” said Regent Thomas Devine at the meeting. 
Most of the Twin Cities funds would be invested in the Biological Sciences buildings on the St. Paul campus, Wheelock said.
While the Pillsbury Hall renovation is at the bottom of the University’s priority list, Devine said the project is still important because of the building’s history. Pillsbury Hall — the Twin Cities campus’ second oldest building — was built in 1887 and is listed on National Register of Historic Places. 
He said the sooner the building is renovated, the cheaper it will be. 
“It’s at the bottom [of the list], but I think it’s also at the top in terms of what we’re trying to convey — that we are interested in preserving, but at the same time, we’re
interested in moving into the 21st century,” he said. 
Even if a project wasn’t included in the list, Wheelock said at the meeting the University has hundreds of other facility projects it would like to complete.
“I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on where they are [located] on this list. I would just point out that there is a long list of projects across the system that didn’t make it to this list,” she said.