UMass Board of Trustees approves $546 million in construction

By Katie Landeck

Courtesy of UMass Media Relations

On Sept. 23, the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees approved the borrowing of $546 million to fund four new projects, including 1,500 beds and new student housing UMass Amherst, a new academic building for UMass Boston, a marine science building at UMass Dartmouth and a new campus garage for UMass Lowell. There was no project approved for UMass Medical, but construction began on the $330 million Albert Sherman Center, a state-of-the-art biomedical research and academic center.

The projects are part of a five-year cycle of evaluation used by the state to decide what buildings need repairs and what the campuses need.

“Every year, we sit down and evaluate what building need to be repaired and the needs that the students identify along with the available revenue and design a plan to benefit the university and the students,” said Ed Blaguszewski, office of news media and relations.

According to Blaguszewski, new housing was identified as a need at UMass because of the chancellor’s goal of expanding the campus over the next few years.

“We will continue to grow the campus over the next five years as it is one of the Chancellor’s goals to diversify the campus while keeping it primarily Massachusetts residents,” Blaguszewski said.

According to Blaguszewski, the project should be completed by the fall of 2013, but he cautions that it is a “rolling plan,” and a “living document,” so changes could arise. As of yet, they have not decided where they are going to build the 1,500 new beds of housing on campus.

“[The] new 1,500 bed residence hall that we anticipate opening for Fall 2013. The actual location has not been determined, but should be set by early October,” said Eddie Hull, director of housing at UMass, in August.

The addition of the new residence hall creates space to accommodate the influx of out-of state-student. UMass officials have stated they are looking to increase undergraduate enrollment by about 15 percent, reaching 22,500 students, over the next 10 years.

Hull estimates the cost to be between $170 million and $190 million. The projects will be paid for by bonds; however some other revenue, such as residence fees, will be used. This was approved by the UMass Building Authority who cited historically low interest rates when approving it.

“Funding is secured by the UMass Building Authority after they make careful projections about how much revenue will be generated and how much the state will give, but most of the money is university money,” Blaguszewski said.

Over the course of the past decade, UMass has spent over $2 billion on construction projects, its largest project in history. According to the news release issued by the UMass news office, the university funded 85 percent of the projects and the state funded only 15 percent.

“We view these projects as an ongoing plan and an investment in our future. The Integrated Science Building we opened two years ago generates money from the research done there. The new dorm will generate money from room and board and revenue from the out-of-state students we can now enroll. It is a thoughtful process and we would like to do more but funding is limited,” Blaguszewski said.

Some of the projects that have been undertaken include the Studio Arts Building that opened in 2008, the Integrated Science Building that opened in 2009 and the replacement of the central heating plant, which has reduced the schools carbon foot print.

“We are trying to improve how students are educated and their ability to succeed. These projects are investments in their future,” Blaguszewski said.

Katie Landek and Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]