Facilities for the Future Discussed at Forum

The next major renovation on campus converting Magers Hall from faculty offices back to student housing was the first of several pending facilities projects discussed at the Dec. 1 university forum at C.B. Hedgcock. Art Gischia (Purchasing) said bids are due Dec. 9 and construction is scheduled to begin in March.

The estimated $6.1 million renovation (depicted in the sketch above) is on the "fast track," with completion expected in just three months. The self-imposed schedule with Magers will serve as a trial for future residence hall renovation projects in the hope that on-campus housing will not be impacted during the academic year.

"That is a very aggressive approach to a project of this magnitude, but we wanted to finish it over the summer so that we wouldn't have to take a building off line for a whole year," Gischia said. "In order to have better control of the scheduling, we've approached the bidding process differently. Instead of having an architect draw up one complete bid package, this time we have three individual bids for general contractor, mechanical and electrical held by the university. It will take two or three shifts to accomplish this, but if it works, we may consider it again for future residence hall renovation."

Magers will also serve as a real-life learning experience for construction management students, who will work on the schedule and follow the process through the initial construction phase. Carl Holm (Housing and Residence Life) said architectural changes in the building will include a roofline that is pitched rather than flat; and three-story entryways on the corners featuring sunroom sitting areas on the second and third floors.

"We really wanted to change the long, dark corridors and open them up to bring in more natural light and allow students to take advantage of that light," Holm said.

The NMU Board of Trustees recently authorized a bond issue to fund new student apartments (sketched at left) at an estimated cost of $13.3 million. The complex will feature a mix of efficiency, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and four-bedroom units.

With the art and design addition nearly finished, serious attention has turned to the future of the two oldest campus buildings: Carey and Lee Halls. Carey, built in 1948, may be turned into condominiums designed for a retiree population.

"The thought of creating a teaching and learning environment that suits all ages of the population is appealing," said President Les Wong. "We have made an effort to receive community input on the Carey proposal. There is a lot of condo construction taking place in Marquette, but we think we can complement that without stealing others' thunder. Adult learners have a legitimate place on campus and this would open up other opportunities."

Mike Roy (Finance and Administration) said Lee Hall may become a campus welcome center, restored to preserve and showcase such noteworthy features as its terrazzo flooring and ballroom. It might eventually house the NMU Foundation, alumni relations, a heritage center funded by a private $1 million gift presented during the past campaign by an NMU alumnus, Northern Center for Lifelong Learning, continuing education and the center for gerontological studies. While some university resources will be required for the project, Roy said the goal is to fund most of it through private sources by creating a vision for the building and securing investors.

Carl Pace (Facilities) outlined future maintenance projects, most of which will begin in May and be completed in August. They include installing a new stage rigging system in Forest Roberts Theatre; upgrading ventilation in the PEIF, based on issues that have surfaced in Vandament Arena and the recreation areas; modifying canopies over the south entrance to the Superior Dome to prevent safety concerns associated with mini-"avalanches" of snow that slide off the building; upgrading a classroom and entrance in Jamrich Hall; and repairing 11 steam manholes on campus that Pace said are failing.

"We will try to fix half of them in 2005 and the remainder in 2006," he added. "In order to do the work, it may require a steam outage of 10 days or longer. We will be talking with departments about the ramifications of that. The longest we normally shut down is three days at a time, so this would be for an extended period."

Other maintenance projects include new electrical switch gear and boilers to replace the current 1960s models, and a future upgrade to the Ripley Heating Plant that may pave the way for cogeneration and alternative fuels.

"We may be able to burn natural gas, wood chips and possibly coal," Pace said. "We're taking a close look at these possibilities, but the study is in the very early stages. As we proceed, we will keep the campus community informed."

The forum ended with tours of the soon-to-be-completed Reynolds Recital Hall in C.B. Hedgcock and the renovated Thomas Fine Arts building.



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Updated: December 2, 2004