U construction will likely focus on renewal rather than new buildings

The University will spend $735 million on capital improvement projects between now and 2009.

by Tricia Michel

The University will likely emphasize renovations rather than new buildings in its construction project agenda for the next six years.

A Board of Regents committee discussed the six-year capital plan, revised in October, at a meeting Thursday.

The plan outlines construction priorities for all the University’s campuses over the next six years. Each year, regents and administrators amend the plan.

According to the plan, the University will spend $735 million on capital improvement projects between now and 2009. The money will come from a combination of state financing, private fund raising and University debt.

Vice President for University Services Kathleen O’Brien said about three-quarters of the money the University requests in state bonding will go toward renovation and renewal projects.

Prior to 2003, the six-year capital plans focused on new construction.

University assistant planning director Orlyn Miller said the economy has slowed the pace of new building. As a result, the University has shifted to renovating existing buildings rather than building new ones.

“We are taking care of what we have as opposed to building new facilities,” Miller said.

The University considers facility conditions and academic priorities when deciding what projects make the six-year capital plan.

Miller said the University wants to enhance buildings if it will improve students’ academic experiences.

He said the University likes to find projects that combine academic needs with facilities that need repair.

“There have to be some focuses where the University is putting its resources into both people and facilities,” Miller said.

The idea for a six-year capital plan came about in the early 1990s when administrators decided the University needed to plan better for its future, said Mike Berthelsen, of the University Office of Budget and Finance.

Projects in this year’s six-year capital plan include system-wide classroom improvements, a recreational sports addition on the Duluth campus and a Carlson School of Management expansion.