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Chester Fritz Auditorium. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald
Chester Fritz Auditorium. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald

UND mulls changes to Chester Fritz

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With a brand new building and several renovation projects on the horizon at UND, the university is now examining older spaces on campus.


UND is working with architectural firms to find the best way to utilize the space inside Chester Fritz Auditorium and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences building, which will be vacated when the new building is complete.

Alice Brekke, UND’s vice president for finance and operations, said she hopes to have the results of consultations with HGA and Hay Dobbs, both Minnesota-based architectural firms, by December.

“We need to understand architecturally, functionally what’s possible, so we’re working with a firm, process ongoing through the fall, to help us understand the options, opportunities, and the potential cost — what’s realistic,” Brekke said. “Until we have that information in hand, we’re really not sure which direction we’re going to go.”

During the last legislative session, UND named eight old buildings that could potentially be taken “offline” and demolished: Chandler Hall, Babcock Hall, the Strinden Center, the Era Bell Thompson Multicultural Center, 314 Cambridge, the Women’s Center, Dakota Hall and the Center for Community Engagement.

Brekke said there wasn’t a lot of research put into that list, so the university is now in the process of a thorough investigation of which buildings could be repurposed and which ones are beyond repair.

“We have some very old and probably pretty poor-conditioned space that is currently occupied,” she said. “In all the moving parts, if we could relocate people, we could take some space offline, which could potentially mean demolition.”

One option being considered would move the Department of Theatre Arts that is currently housed in Chandler Hall into the auditorium, but nothing is set in stone.

Deferred repairs

Repurposing and updating these buildings could also make a dent in UND’s deferred maintenance tab.

The North Dakota University System has been appropriated an average of $40 million per biennium for the last six years for deferred maintenance, but last spring, the consulting firm Paulien and Associates studied a small sample of campus buildings and found them to be in need of about $808 million dollars worth of deferred maintenance.

The five buildings assessed at UND alone require $27.9 million in deferred maintenance over the next six years. The 64-year-old Medical School building is in need of $15.1 million in repairs, according to the report.

UND Director of Facilities Management Larry Zitzow said there have been repairs made to the 42-year-old Chester Fritz Auditorium in the last few months, so the exact amount of deferred maintenance left isn’t available yet.

“We are committed to the process,” Brekke said. “We think it’s important that voices be heard and we don’t have any preconceived notions as to where this is going to end up.”