Renovating the University of Minnesota

Ty Cimaglio, Contributor

Recently, I took a look at some of the oldest buildings on campus here at the University of Minnesota and found some surprising facts from their pasts. I’ve also done a dive into much of the construction that has plagued Dinkytown throughout the last three years in an attempt to evaluate its worth. In sticking with a similar theme, I’d now like to take a look at some of the renovation and construction projects the University of Minnesota has either recently completed, recently began constructing, or have just started designing.

Many of the recently completed projects at the U seem to pertain specifically to our many science programs and human development programs. Completed in August of this year, the College of Education and Human Development renovated a portion of the Institute of Child Development and also added an additional 47,000 square feet to the facility. A project nearing completion is the College of Science and Engineering’s complete renovation of Lind Hall on East Bank to provide 57,500 square feet of updated space for the college’s new Industrial and Systems Engineering department, as well as provide some additional space for the department of Computer Science & Engineering.

Completed in August of 2021, CEHD and the Medical School combined forces to renovate a newly acquired building to house the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain – a 116,000 square foot facility dedicated to diagnosing, preventing and treating neurodevelopmental disorders in early childhood and adolescence. Other recently completed projects include the renovation of Pillsbury Hall, which I mentioned in my last article about the oldest buildings on campus, the Early Childhood Learning Center in partnership with the YMCA, the renovation and expansion of the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, and several minor renovations to offices around campus.

Looking towards projects that are currently in construction, there’s a new $100 million, 86,700 square foot microbial cell production facility wrapping up construction in the next couple months, designed to accommodate the expansion of the Biotechnology Resource Center. 

Also wrapping up in the next couple months is a renovation of 11,300 square feet of space in the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Murphy Hall updating many of the classrooms, study spaces, and broadcast studio. Other current renovation projects include a redesign of the second floor in the Dwan Variety Club Cardiovascular Research Center and the fourth floor of the Philips-Wangensteen Building, home to the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Integrative Biology & Physiology and soon to be home to a new Medical School Admissions office. Additional projects in the works are a bolstering of the campus’ main Cooling Heat and Power plant to meet projected future needs and the construction of the Burton and Virginia Myers Education Center at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

The proposed Chemistry Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories at Fraser Hall.
The proposed Chemistry Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories at Fraser Hall.

A couple big projects are still in the design phase, one being the proposed Chemistry Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories, a project that would demolish part of Fraser Hall, renovate the remaining 30,000 square feet and then construct an additional 91,000 square feet of space. This space would then house 18 additional chemistry and life sciences teaching labs, new study and tutoring spaces, renovated general purpose classrooms, and a future Nuclear Magnetic Resonance space. 

Another project still being designed is a set of Centennial improvements to 3MAM and Ridder Arena to celebrate 100 years of Gopher hockey. Phase 1 of the project will replace the ice refrigerant systems in the arenas, reduce the ice size in 3MAM and upgrade the ice lighting in 3MAM as well. Phase 2 of the project will include a seat enhancement study, further improvements to the fan experience, upgrades to the hockey team amenities, facility upgrades, and several overall facility enhancements designed to improve the fan experience. Construction of Phase 1 is projected to start in April 2023 with both phases being completed by September 2024. 

While a lot of these projects are pretty cool and probably very necessary due to facilities aging, they’re a bit of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, these facility upgrades and renovations are probably crucial in convincing top-tier professors and researchers to come to the University of Minnesota which should have a gradual impact on increasing the value of every student’s education and degree. On the other hand, a substantial portion of the (fairly high) tuition I am paying every year is going towards construction and renovation projects that haven’t had, nor will they ever have, any sort of impact on my life as a student here.

It would be nice to see improvements to facilities that have impacts on more students than some of these more niche, high-level research facilities. I can already think of a huge building every University of Minnesota student has been in at least once that could use some drastic improvements if it wants to achieve its stated goal of serving as the center for student life on campus: Coffman Memorial Union. Sounds like a great topic for another article (hint, hint).