Summer Renovations Will Pave Way For Science Building – The Highlander

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Mike Gombita/Ryan Foster, Reporter

Multiple campus construction projects set for summer break will improve parking, dining and learning, and some will pave the way for a future science building addition.

A building on 199 Lake Street, which was once owned by the Sisters of Mercy, will become home to health sciences departments.

“The building or as I call it, ‘the pyramid building,’ will have offices for the faculty and PT clinical instead of having it on the ground level of Passan Hall,” said Eric Nelson, Vice President of Finance and Administration. “The nursing faculty offices will be moving into that building as well, having a state-of-the art lecture room with the equipment to do the teaching methods for nursing.”

The faculty of the occupational therapy department, whose offices are located on the third floor of Walsh Hall, will relocate to Passan Hall where most occupational therapy classes are held.

“I feel really awesome about that,” said Sarah Novalsky, first year occupational therapy major. “It is nice to have your own little sanctuary.”

This move will open more parking spaces for students and faculty.

Novalsky said students to drive to campus often have to search for parking spots, and that causes some students to be late for class.

“It is going to solve so many problems,” said Novalsky.

Another project, which has been in the works for years, is the installation of a sidewalk from the four-way stop on Lake Street to the entrance arch. State government provided grants, Nelson said, but officials had to cross hurdles before they could start the work.

“One of the reasons why it is taking a long time is because of a creek,” said Nelson. “We needed permits and the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers needed to get involved because if you touch anything or hurt a frog, you’re in trouble.”

Dallas Township workers will set the pace of the work because Nelson said the sidewalks are a community project, not one that will serve only the university and students who walk among campus buildings.

Crews will also renovate the John and Mary Metz Dining Hall, Nelson said.

“We are scheduled to do the floor, ceiling, walls, and light fixtures,” said Nelson. Crews will install new counters, a gluten-free zone, a new salad bar.  Some projects will extend to next summer.

Darcy Brodmerkel, Director of Student Activities said incoming students will be able to use the cafeteria for orientation, although work will be incomplete.

“It will not be aesthetically pleasing to the incoming students, but what we can say to the incoming students and their families is that it is showing growth and will be so much nicer in the fall,” said Brodmerkel.

Another project on the list involves exterior work on the townhouses.

“We will first work on the exteriors and the maintenance issues and side the buildings with vinyl siding,” said Nelson. “We are also planning on creating more of an outdoor living space and upgrading the lighting, heating and air conditioning units,” Nelson said.

Nelson said kitchens and bathrooms will be upgraded in the future.

A series of small projects this summer will pave the way for a much larger one: construction of an addition to the science building. Crews will relocate utilities in an effort to prevent future problems during building construction.

“The main sewer line that is for the university is directly under where we want to place the addition,” said Nelson. “We also have to relocate the data lines that are underground.”

Since the electrical capacity for the science building takes up a majority of the electricity on campus, more transformers and extra lines need to be installed.

“Built in 1957, the current science building is one of the oldest buildings on campus, and is in serious need of an update,”said President Thomas Botzman. “This was built when we had about 1000 students,”

Botzman said the planned addition will house science labs and research space, and the original part of the structure will house offices and some classroom space.

According to Project Manager Peter Calkins, blueprints show that the addition will connect to the rear of the building via an atrium.

“There will be a large lecture hall located in the new building, and that is something we do not currently have,” said Calkins. “We have also been working on designing an outdoor rain garden to help beautify this area.”

Botzman said the new science building will also help the university to expand program offerings.

“Right now we are capped out on space in the science building. If we were to think about adding an applied physics major, which is not something we currently have, we need more space and labs,” said Botzman.

Construction of the addition is scheduled to begin in 2018, and officials expect it to be completed by 2020. However, the timeline depends upon completion of supporting projects, which include a relocation of the softball field to allow for the creation of a parking lot, further renovations to the dining hall, and the construction of a new nursing clinic and an additional road.

“The softball field will be moved back to the sports complex, and the current field will be turned into a parking lot,” said Botzman. “The team will now have access the field house, as they should.”

“We would not go ahead without constructing a parking lot first,” said Botzman, adding that parking spaces will increase.

“We will end up putting more spaces in that lot than we will take away from behind the science building.”

Nelson said students will be impressed with the campus this fall.

“We are trying to always have a fresh new look on things,” said Nelson.

Nelson said as long as the “stars are aligned,” construction projects scheduled for the summer should be completed by the beginning of the fall semester.