Board of Trustees approves $3.1 billion for UMass’ new construction system

By Brian Bevilacqua

Nicole Evangelista/Collegian

The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees’ Committee on Administration and Finance has decided to continue the ongoing construction at UMass and throughout the five-campus system.

The Board approved $3.1 billion in spending on further construction, renovations and other improvements to University structures from 2013-2017 on Sept. 20. Of that, $1.1 billion is set aside for the Amherst campus, according to a University press release.

The capital plan will be funded through allocations from the campus’s operating budget, as well as by borrowing from the University of Massachusetts Building Authority, according to a release. The Amherst campus has already committed $95 million of operating funds to service debt and support the implementation of the plan.

The University anticipates needed to borrow additional money from the UMBA within the next five years.

The plan also seeks funding from private donors and federal grants. Currently, the Isenberg School of Management is looking to raise $24 million to build in addition. Recently completed projects, such as the George N. Parks Marching Band Building, also used private donations to help fund the project.

The new capital plan is meant to help accommodate the growing number of students attending school within the five-campus system.  Since 2002, applications totaled 57,721 for the five campuses. In 2012 that number rose to 70,874, the highest enrollment ever in the UMass system.

The plan covers ongoing construction projects on the campuses, as well as new projects that have not started yet such as the planned new science building that will house the chemistry and physics departments.

Plans for the building were announced Oct. 2 when the state released $85 million as part of the  $2.2 billion Higher Education Bond Bill that was passed in 2008.

 

Collegian Construction from Daily Collegian on Vimeo Video by Brian Bevilacqua.

 

In addition to the science building, the newly approved plans will 249 projects on the campus over the next five years.  Ten of these projects are going to be added to the capital plan for this year, including the work on the Commonwealth Honors Complex.

The Commonwealth Honors Residential College Complex is scheduled to be completed for fall 2013 and will cost $186.5 million. It will create new rooms for 1,500 students, in addition to six apartment units for faculty and nine classrooms.

Nine hundred of these students will live in one of the 175 new suites or 50 new apartments being built as a part of the complex, which is “a visible representation of the commitment of this campus to academic excellence” said to Priscilla M. Clarkson, the dean of the Commonwealth College, in a release.

Also included in the capital plan is the construction of the New Academic Classroom Building in the middle of campus, near the student center. This building will add 2,000 new classroom seats to the campus. Construction on the $85 billion building start in March and is expected to be completed by spring 2014.

Other projects being constructed on campus include the Life Science Laboratory which is slated to be finished in spring 2013.

The building boom is part of a plan to enhance the quality of the UMass experience and attract students and professors to the school, according to UMass President Robert Caret.

“There is a direct correlation between the quality of our facilities and the quality of our student experience and achievement. Our ability to attract and retain top-notch faculty, conduct world-class research, and improve the economic environment of the Commonwealth through public/private collaborations and innovations rests with our ability to have the infrastructure in place that allows all of these efforts to take place,” he said in a press release.

In the release, Caret acknowledged an increase in the amount of construction on campus, but called this a good thing.

“We have seen new science centers, residence halls, academic buildings and student recreation centers open their doors in the last ten years. For many years, too little new construction and maintenance occurred on our campuses. But in recent years, we have begun to reverse that trend and that’s the path we need to continue on,” he said.

Victor Woolridge, Chairman of the committee that approved the plan, explained in the release that the new capital plan is meant to address “critical infrastructure needs and to preserve and advance the University’s mission.

“It’s the basic foundation you need to attract and retain high quality students and faculty,” Woolridge said.

The plan also addressed the deferred maintenance on campus. A 1998 study found that 25 percent of the building to be in deficient condition.

According to the capital plan narrative, of the approximately 500 buildings on campus, approximately 80 percent are over 25 years old and 53 percent are over 40 years old. The narrative goes on to say that “typically, at the age of 25 years many building systems and components are worn out and should be replaced. At the age of 40 years most major building systems have reached the end of their useful life and should be replaced.”

Building scheduled for renovations include Lederle, Machmer and Morrill.

The spending in the new capital plan will come on top of the $2.4 billion that has already been spent on renovations to UMass campuses over the last 10 years.

Brian Bevilacqa can be reached at [email protected]  Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected].