UND's Memorial Union project winds down, while construction elsewhere continues

About a year and nine months after the old Memorial Union was demolished, work on the new building is nearly complete. Some site work needs to be completed, including the concrete walk-up to the

Construction workers work on a total remodel of O'Kelly Hall on UND's campus. (Adam Kurtz/Grand Forks Herald)
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UND’s campus remains abuzz with continued work on multiple construction projects, from new buildings to complete renovations. While some projects are set to continue through next year, projects like the Memorial Union are winding down.

About a year and nine months after the old Memorial Union was demolished, work on the new building is nearly complete. Some site work needs to be completed, including the concrete walk-up to the building, and interior electrical work is still ongoing, as are finishing touches to paint and new carpet. The university accepted the first delivery of furniture on June 17, and the building is expected to be open by August.

“Overall, it's looking really, really sharp,” said Brian Larson, director of construction management at UND.

The $80 million Memorial Union project is being funded by student fees, with UND contributing as well.

A short distance to the west on University Avenue, work on the Dr. Kathleen and Hal Gershman Graduate Center, formerly the J. Lloyd Stone House, which was renamed after a $3 million donation from the couple, is largely complete. Staff will begin moving in at the start of the fall semester.


Construction of the new Nistler College of Business and Public Administration, directly across from the graduate center, is well underway. The building has largely been erected, and is being built in a “collegiate-gothic” style, which preserves some continuity with other UND buildings, namely Merrifield Hall. What makes the building stand out is its pitched roof, which makes the $70 million building appear taller than its three floors.

“This is a major statement building here for our campus,” Larson said.

The building should be completed by mid-2022, and staff and faculty will spend the summer moving in from Gamble Hall.

A complete renovation of O’Kelly Hall is also well-underway. The building is in the process of getting a new roof and windows, and the interior was gutted and redone, with interior work mostly remaining on the second floor. The project carries a price tag of about $38 million.

Outside O’Kelly, work is ongoing on the Second Avenue corridor, a pedestrian thoroughfare that, when completed, will extend from behind the Memorial Union and continue west to the Nistler College building. From there, it will connect with the bridges that cross the English Coulee. Work will only be completed in the vicinity of O’Kelly by move-in weekend, starting on Aug. 21.

“It's just going to be a really nice addition to our campus, where students and faculty and the campus community don’t have to deal with the traffic and crosswalks,” said UND spokesman David Dodds. “Just a nice pedestrian zone."

Construction projects at UND stem from the need to reduce square footage there, in order to use space more efficiently. In recent years a number of buildings have been torn down, including Corwin-Larimore Hall, Montgomery Hall, the Strinden Center and single-story housing units usually referred to as “married housing.” Recent demolitions have reduced UND’s footprint by 800,000 square feet.

According to Mike Pieper, associate vice president of facilities at UND, conversations about efficiency were triggered by a recession in 2008. Both the public and private sectors, he said, began re-evaluating how space is used.


“A lot of states started wanting to know what your utilization is, and what your deferred maintenance is,” Pieper said. “The best way to solve both of them is shrinking a little bit.”

Future projects include remodeling Twamley and Merrifield Halls, but funding for those projects will likely have to wait until the next legislative session. UND had requested $5 million for design work, but funding failed to materialize in the university's final budget. UND President Andrew Armacost said the project is next in line, and is part of a campus-wide plan looking at deferred maintenance and reducing unused square footage.

Once underway, people working in Merrifield and Twamley Halls will shuffle between Gamble Hall, while the remodeling project is carried out. When it has been completed, Gamble Hall will be torn down.

“There's a set of dominoes that have to move in sequence, and Merrifield and Twamley are next up in that sequence,” Armacost said. “We're eager to hear how we can fund it.”

While projects on UND’s campus are either proceeding or in the planning stages, city-led road construction at the intersection of University Avenue and North Columbia Road has fallen slightly behind.

According to City Administrator Todd Feland, the project has been delayed by a week, after a piece of equipment used for underground utility work caught fire. Replacement parts have been ordered, and crews are working to complete the project by the time students return to campus.

What won’t be completed are traffic signals in that area. The signals won’t arrive until October, due to a nationwide shortage. Crews will either make use of temporary signals, or will reinstall the old ones until replacements arrive.


UND's new Nistler College of Business and Public Administration building, seen here on June 17, 2021, is being built in "Collegiate-Gothic" style. (Adam Kurtz/Grand Forks Herald)

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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