Board hears plan to rebuild

Elena Rozwadowski

If the University can find the money, it might get a heart transplant by fall of 2010.

The University Board of Regents discussed potential plans for Northrop Auditorium on Friday after an advisory committee presentation.

The plans, in their preliminary stages, received praise from many of the regents.

“It’s not just a building project,” said Regent John Frobenius. “Northrop is the heart and soul of the University.”

Northrop Advisory Committee co-chairs Steven Rosenstone and Kathleen O’Brien showed regents the strongest of three renovation options that calls for a reduction in the number of seats in Northrop from 4,800 to roughly 3,500 seats.

While Northrop is currently the only theater space in the Twin Cities between 3,500 and 10,000 seats, Rosenstone said the number would be reduced to uphold current building codes and safety regulations.

“The auditorium will never have more than 4,000 seats, given the outer shell of the building,” Rosenstone said.

Rosenstone said 2010 was an optimistic timeframe for completion and the project could realistically stretch into the following year.

Although the auditorium might shrink, a new space will grow around it for classrooms, discussion rooms and a Twin Cities Public Television studio.

“Every space will do double and triple duty,” Rosenstone said.

Another option for the new space is to make it the home of the new Honors College, an idea that garnered much support from the regents.

Funding was the regents’ biggest concern. This proposal’s $70 million budget would come from a combination of state funds, University bonding and private donors.

Many regents expressed skepticism about the Capitol’s willingness to back the project with state funding.

But University President Bob Bruininks was optimistic, saying the University should be able to find the money.

“It’s a big number, but it’s feasible,” he said.

Regent David Larson suggested making Northrop an example to gain legislative support for this and other similar projects, an idea O’Brien supported.

“Northrop is the poster child for buildings that are important to our state,” said O’Brien, University services vice president.

O’Brien said the longevity of the building after the renovation would depend on the amount of money they could put into the building.

Assuming the University received full state funding, “we would have another hundred-year building,” O’Brien said.

The advisory committee will continue work on its plans and will appear before the regents again in coming months.

Other business

The regents reviewed a board policy regarding University-affiliated organizations.

The policy would allow the University president to give special recognition to tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations that “support the University or its mission.”

In return, the organizations would have certain privileges, such as the use of University property or employees, according to the proposal.

If these organizations didn’t act ethically or legally, the president would have the right to terminate the relationship.

Although the policy was not heavily criticized, Regents Vice Chairwoman Patricia Simmons suggested the policy should give some power to the board in making these relationship decisions.

The board will vote on the policy later this semester.

Other reports included those from Bruininks on the capital budget and from the All-University Honors Committee.

Next month’s board meetings will feature the Strategic Positioning update and further review and action of policies presented this month.