About a dozen buildings on UND's campus will be closed up and left empty in coming years because the university has more space than it needs. Some of the buildings are in poor condition.

A 438-page master plan released this month states much of what needs to be done is contingent on the ability to obtain funding. Interim UND President Ed Schafer wrote in a campuswide memo that the funding most likely won't come from the state.

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"We are going to have to find alternative ways of funding these projects, and one is to fund the projects from within," he said, referring to ongoing budget cuts at the school. "The budget work we are doing now will result in the university having the flexibility to invest in priority areas."

Some moving between buildings could start as early as next fall when the new School of Medicine and Health Sciences opens, but Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Dave Chakraborty said the university's incoming President Mark Kennedy and state funding will affect the overall timeline of buildings being vacated, and the master plan states it could be at least 2019 before moves are finalizes.

Historical preservation is being considered and demolishing buildings hasn't been talked about, Chakraborty said.

Buildings may be empty, but they will be heated "so they don't deteriorate, and very soon we have to start the conversation about what's happening in the future," he said.

Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission Coordinator Peg O'Leary said she's worried nonetheless for the some historic buildings affected by the plan, particularly Corwin/Larimore Hall and Robertson/Sayre Hall.

"I think it's much easier to defer maintenance on empty buildings but I think the long-term objective when you empty a building is it's no longer viable and there's no reason to keep it up and no reason to keep it standing," she said.

Buildings slated to be taken offline in all three facilities plans
  • Corwin/Larimore Hall - built in 1908
  • Era Bell Thompson - built in 1940
  • 2912 University
  • Dakota Hall - built in 1976
  • 314 Cambridge - built in 1927
  • The Armory - built in 1918
  • International Center
  • Chandler Hall - built in 1899
  • Robertson/Sayre Hall - built in 1908
  • Strinden Hall - built in 1987
  • Center for Community Engagement - built in 1924
  • Women's Center building - built in the early 1900s

Campus has grown from 229 buildings in fiscal year 2007 to 245 in December 2015. Those slated for closure make up only 5 percent of that total.

 

The report looks at 70 state-appropriated buildings and found about 88 percent of them are over 25 years old. Depending on which of three options is picked moving forward, six other buildings could also be emptied as departments move from older, partially empty buildings into the old Med School building. "I'm new and I don't know what the history really is or how decisions got made but obviously enough dollars weren't invested in facilities in the past," Chakraborty said. "Why that happened, I don't know, and I don't know if anyone would really have a good answer."

Falling apart

In 2014, eight buildings were named to be taken offline and many of them are on the new list as well: the Women's Center, Era Bell Thompson Multicultural Center, Chandler Hall, Babcock Hall, the Strinden Center, the Center for Community Engagement, Dakota Hall and 314 Cambridge.

The women's and multicultural centers were initially slated for demolition that year but remain standing.

Chakraborty said many of the buildings affected are already partially empty.

"Maybe Carnegie can be used for conference room and maybe Babcock could be a museum," he said. "I don't know what the answer is but to maintain the historical significance and to keep those buildings partially occupied and running is not good with the fiscal situation of the university."

The report states maintenance costs over the next decade would cost $506 million, which includes a $20 million upgrade to the steam plant that is "in the worst condition of all UND buildings," as five of the seven boilers there are years past the expected lifespans.

Chakraborty said realizes those are large dollar figures and doesn't know if it's all going to be fixed.

Building condition was calculated by comparing the value of the building when compared to the current repairs needed and the average rating put UND in "poor condition."

The report states UND should invest between $18 million and $36 million annually to maintain and upgrade these buildings. If $8 million is invested annually, the equivalent of how much the university received for this fiscal year, the report states the facilities will continue to fall apart.

"If (legislators) don't fund it will the money come from the university in some fashion? That's a decision the president and vice presidents will have to make, whether they want to invest the dollars we have," Chakraborty said. "One issue is frankly I don't think the executives, the president and vice presidents, knew the magnitude of the problem until we did the study."

Separately, buildings at UND that aren't the result of state funding - including housing, athletic buildings and support buildings - need about $198 million for deferred maintenance and are also rated as poor. About $268 million is necessary to address those costs in the next decade. As most non-appropriated buildings are student housing, a master plan study is underway to address future needs.

Dorm rate increases, effective next fall, are intended to start saving for future renovations in those buildings.

In budget cut proposals released by the university last Monday, a group is being formed to look at the viability of the Chester Fritz Auditorium, which was built in 1972.

"I know that operation is not breaking even and the university is subsidizing that operation and so what the university has to figure out is how to run that auditorium so that it can be self sustaining," Chakraborty said.

More data

The master plan has been in the works since the fall of 2015 per a request from the State Board of Higher Education. After several forums publically presenting the three options and gathering feedback, a draft master plan was submitted in February, followed with this month's report.

Due to the enormity of the endeavor, 36 buildings used for research, lab, housing, parking, mechanical rooms and support facilities such as the library and Memorial Union were excluded for the space utilization part of the study.

The report also doesn't include about 474,000 square feet of new academic space that will be added by next fall because of the new School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Robin Hall aerospace research facility and Collaborative Energy Complex.

Average classroom utilization is 61 percent, below the North Dakota University System target rate of 100 percent. The average lab utilization rate is 82 percent, also below the NDUS target of 100 percent, though further analysis is needed due to the specialized nature of lab space. Office space on the other hand, is being used "fairly efficiently."

The reports suggests making classroom scheduling more efficient through better software, scheduling outside of core hours and doing all of it through the Registrar's Office.

"By improving classroom utilization, fewer rooms will be required," the document states. "Utilities and maintenance costs will be lower, and smaller investments in technological equipment and furniture will be required."

Along with consolidating space, the master plan proposes upgrading the Steam Plant, which is "in imminent danger of failure," and renovating the two classroom buildings that serve the most students, O'Kelly and Merrifield Halls.

The university announced earlier this month the first floor and basement of O'Kelly Hall will be renovated periodically during school breaks starting this summer with plans to finish the $7 million project in 2017. Funding for the construction is coming from a repairs and deferred maintenance allocation from the state, student technology fees and other reserve funds.

The plan also calls for a renovation and addition at Gamble Hall.

"Our foundation thinks there's enough interest in the donor community to raise the dollars necessary for that project," Chakraborty said.

The Chester Fritz Library is also undergoing minor renovations with the intent to start a larger overhaul in the future using a $7 million existing pool to match donor funds.

Chakraborty said the State Board of Higher Education will look at UND's master plan at their upcoming meeting this month.