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University of Missouri

Building Priorities

Construction projects rebuild, remodel and renew a 175-year-old university.

Illustration by Stephan Walter

Illustration by Stephan Walter

Rising enrollment, advancing technology and evolving attitudes about how best to meet student needs means Mizzou’s campus is constantly in flux. The university’s bricks and mortar are forever in a state of construction, repair and demolition as the campus of the past makes way for the needs of the present and future.

Even icons such as Jesse Hall make way for change. The august building will be closed 10 months for improvements starting in July for the multifaceted Renew Mizzou project, which involves work on three buildings, relocation of two campus museums, and displacement of nearly 1,000 faculty and staff.

Although construction is a constant presence, the amount of work has not kept pace with needs. Not counting MU Health Care, Mizzou manages 407 buildings containing 14.9 million square feet of floor space. Classroom and administration buildings alone have accumulated a maintenance backlog of $586 million. Of that total, $24 million requires immediate attention, and $91 million is needed within a year. And those numbers continue to grow as the amount of maintenance to be done each year outpaces the money available to do it.

At its Jan. 31 meeting, University of Missouri System Board of Curators heard a presentation about deferred maintenance and renovation in education and administration buildings, which totals $1.3 billion on all four campuses.

Here’s a look at some of the changes in store.

renew mizzou

Jesse Hall (gold) anchors Francis Quadrangle. Upgrades to the iconic building are at the center of the $22.9 million Renew Mizzou project, which also includes a complete renovation of Swallow Hall (blue) and the decommissioning of Pickard Hall (magenta). Photo by Robert Llewellyn.

Road Map

UM System President Tim Wolfe has made renovation of science, technology, engineering, math and medicine buildings a priority. Lafferre Hall, home to the College of Engineering, is at the top of MU’s list. Constructed, expanded and renovated in eight phases dating back to 1892, Lafferre’s most deteriorated portions date to 1935 and 1944. The building is a $32.6 million renovation project in search of funding.

Renovating Lafferre would create more laboratory space on campus, a need MU has identified as part of its annual master planning process, which helps prioritize where construction, renovation and maintenance dollars are spent.

Many college and university administrators create master plans every five years, periodically dusting the documents off to remind themselves where they’re headed. Not Mizzou. MU’s capital review committee updates the master plan every year, which means it’s always top of mind, a living document, says Linda Eastley, Mizzou’s master plan consultant and a principal at Sasaki Associates Inc. in Boston.

Every year the committee “pushes the university to think in a renewed way about its physical facility,” she says, which helps campus leaders manage limited resources and support student learning.

But Eastley predicts the biggest change 2014 graduates will see at their 10-year reunion is “a more remarkable fabric of open spaces,” what she calls the “tissue” between buildings. That mission of beautification got its modern start under Barbara S. Uehling, MU chancellor from 1978–87, during whose tenure the yearly master plan updates began. It’s still going strong.

I hope students will come back and feel the campus is becoming more of a showcase,” Eastley says.

Buildings Punch List

Projects in construction or design include:

  • Jesse Hall improvements to upgrade the heating, ventilation and air conditioning; upgrade the elevator; install a second elevator; and install a fire sprinkler and alarm system. Estimated cost: $9.85 million. Construction is scheduled to start July 2014 and end April 2015.
  • Swallow Hall reconstruction to provide a modern interior to the 1893 building and renovate the 30,000 square feet of exterior brick masonry. Estimated cost: $11.5 million. Construction is scheduled to start July 2014 and end February 2016.
  • Memorial Stadium east side addition to add 5,200 bleacher seats, up to 900 premium seats and additional restroom, concession and circulation space. Estimated cost: $45.5 million. Construction began March 2013 and is scheduled to end August 2014.
  • Missouri Orthopaedic Institute addition to add three stories to the southeast corner to include new operating and clinic exam rooms and a new entry/discharge lobby. Estimated cost: $35 million. Construction is scheduled to start November 2014 and end September 2016.
  • Second phase of East Campus Chiller construction to boost capacity and connect University Hospital to the campus chilled-water loop system, which provides more efficient air conditioning. Estimated cost: $22.5 million. Construction began November 2013 and is scheduled to end April 2015.

Budget Binds

In the past, keeping university buildings repaired was much easier, says Marty Oetting, MA ’92, director of governmental relations for UM System.

“It used to be every two years we would get a major capital project funded,” he says of state budgets in the 1990s. “But by the early 2000s, that changed.”

The 2001 recession, followed by the 2007-09 recession, hurt state revenue, and the cost of K-12 education and health care crowded the state budget. “It became, ‘We can’t do capital improvements this year,’ ” Oetting says. “And ‘this year’ became ‘next year,’ and so on.”

Then there’s term limits. Today’s lawmakers had never approved a capital improvement bill for higher education — until now.

In May the legislature passed a $220 million capital improvement bill. A highlight was its funding of a matching program created in 2012 whereby lawmakers could fund 50 percent of a college or university’s capital project if the school raised the other 50 percent from private sources. Three of MU’s four 50–50 projects were included in the bill.

However, because of a disagreement about how high tax revenue will be, the only guaranteed funding is $10 million for construction of an experiential learning center for the Trulaske College of Business. If revenue is as high as Gov. Jay Nixon, BA ’78, JD ’81, projects, the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources will receive $1.5 million to construct a teaching and research winery, and the College of Arts and Science will receive $2.7 million for the planning phase of new fine arts and music buildings.

The fourth project, $6.1 million to do a portion of the proposed Lafferre Hall renovations, was left out because the entire $38.5 million project is included in another capital improvements bill that is funded by borrowing. That bill was still under debate at press time.

Up and Away

Campus Facilities’ list of its 125 projects in the design phase runs dozens of pages, double-sided. Another couple dozen pages list the 90 projects in construction.

The division oversees hundreds of renovation and construction projects a year, from repainting and re-carpeting offices to wholesale renovation of century-old classroom buildings — and some chiller and steam pipe infrastructure expansion for good measure.

The showcase project is Renew Mizzou, a $22.9 million effort that calls for safety and access upgrades to Jesse Hall, a complete renovation of Swallow Hall and the decommissioning of Pickard Hall. Most of the cost will be paid using campus savings ($14 million), with the rest coming from Campus Facilities’ capital repair budget.

Swallow will be the fourth building to undergo whole-building renovation under the stewardship model, which essentially involves demolishing everything but the outer walls and constructing a modern building using affordable materials within the shell of the old building. Improved interior configuration — and expansion of the top floor in the case of Swallow — results in more usable teaching, research and office space to better support the academic mission.

Residential Life

Mizzou didn’t build a single residence hall from 1965 to 2004, a span that saw on-campus enrollment grow by 53 percent.

The need for new halls, and for renovating existing ones, led Residential Life, a self-supporting unit funded entirely by student fees, to craft its own master plan in 2001 that laid out 13 years of residence hall construction and renovation. The plan has since been updated twice and, if the second phase of the Dobbs replacement project is approved, will cover 20 years and $484 million of projects when it concludes in 2021.

Much of the work has involved remaking old structures. The dormitories of the 1950s and ’60s maximized the number of beds. New designs, however, focus on fostering community and learning environments.

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University Village To Be Demolished

The graduate student and family housing complex University Village, at 601 S. Providence Road, will be demolished this summer. 

The complex was the site of a partial walkway collapse Feb. 22 that killed Columbia firefighter Lt. Bruce Britt. 

Britt was among those investigating a loud noise in Building 707, suspected to be a roof collapse, reported by building residents. The noise was actually the second-floor walkway, which was starting to give out under its own weight. Britt was standing on the portion that collapsed.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin ordered an immediate independent inspection of the complex. All other Residential Life buildings older than 10 years were inspected the next day, followed by all of the more than 250 buildings owned or leased by MU, including all county MU Extension offices and farm research buildings.

The report on the cause of the walkway collapse, prepared by Columbia engineering firm Trabue, Hansen & Hinshaw, blamed “concrete shear failure” along the walkway’s outer edge, likely caused by concrete deterioration from water and chlorides and expansion from freeze-thaw action. Shear strain is created by downward pressure from the walkway’s weight and upward pressure from the support beams. 

Loftin called Britt “a heroic gentleman” in an April interview on Columbia radio station KFRU. “[He] came to help and protect the lives and safety of our students.”