Capital plan emphasizes renovations

The plan to renovate and construct will be voted on in March.

by Luke Miller

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents reviewed a six-year capital plan last week, which included multiple proposals to renovate and improve many campus buildings and construct new ones.

The six-year plan lays out construction priorities for the entire University system until 2018. The board will act on the plan in March.

University President Eric Kaler opened the presentation Friday by emphasizing its importance in the University’s direction.

“It is, of course, the first plan developed in my presidency and reflects my long-term vision for this great University system-wide,” Kaler said.

His first plan includes many changes across the Twin Cities campus.

In 2014, the University would like to rehabilitate Tate Laboratory of Physics. The 200,000 square-foot building in the Northrop Mall is more than 80 years old and was last remodeled in 1965.

Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration Robert Jones said the renovation would “allow for the creation of a new home for the School of Earth Sciences and the opportunity to update science classrooms.” It would “also provide non-laboratory spaces for the more theoretical portions of the school’s work both in physics and astronomy.”

However, renovation could only begin once the construction of the physics and nanotechnology building is finished, which is expected to be in fall 2013.

In a two-phase process starting in 2014 and continuing in 2016, the University hopes to combine renovation and new construction on the St. Paul campus for improved research facilities. The renovations would include the Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering building, the Engineering and Fisheries Laboratory building and Kaufert Lab.

The facilities would be home to office and microbiology laboratory space.

This space would be used by the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences, the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The project would also allow for the decommissioning of Hodson Hall and other research labs on the St. Paul campus.

In 2016, the University also plans to renovate Pillsbury Hall. It will house the English department after the School of Earth Sciences moves to Tate.

Lind Hall, the current home for the English department, will be used by the College of Science and Engineering after the English program makes its transition into Pillsbury.

In another two-phase process beginning in 2016 and continuing in 2018, the University is looking to renovate Wilson Library.

The renovations are meant “to make it more focused on the student and faculty experiences, in contrast to focusing on storing just various collections,” Jones said.

The project will develop new environmentally controlled spaces for the University’s rare books collections.

In 2018, the University would like to create a new combined center for the Department of Psychology and the Institute of Child Development.

Psychology is currently the largest major at the University and the new facility would replace Elliott Hall, leading to a behavioral sciences district on the Knoll of the East Bank.

There are no guarantees that the University will follow the guidelines laid out in the plan. In the years to come, other projects may arise and priorities could change.

New plan for ambulatory care center

The long-awaited ambulatory care clinic has been a topic of discussion for years but has faced several funding roadblocks. Last week, administrators revealed a new potential financing plan for the clinic.

During a committee meeting Thursday, University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter  said the clinic may be privately financed. The project didn’t appear on the six-year capital plan.

In October, the board left the $200 million clinic off of its 2012 capital request. The building would bring together existing medical facilities and relieve the burden on the overcrowded and aging Phillips-Wangensteen Building.

“The University may be the entity that constructs [the clinic], but it is not likely it will be the entity that finances it,” Monique MacKenzie, a departmental director with capital planning, said.

MacKenzie said the University of Minnesota Physicians and the financial officers of the University have been working for months on determining the financial details of the plan. They have a self-imposed deadline for the end of March to conclude their discussion.

She added that the board could have a study session on the plan in March.

Once the board is presented with any new recommendation, it can determine future plans for the clinic.