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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2005

University of Toledo planning $300M worth of upgrades

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

University of Toledo officials yesterday unveiled a 10-year facilities master plan for its campuses, which calls for renovating Savage Hall and restoring the Memorial Field House - one of UT's oldest buildings that has been boarded up in recent years.

The two projects are among dozens of planned changes and are part of a bold, nearly $300 million package, which also specifies demolition of five buildings and a steam plant.

And the proposal focuses on campus beautification and access, namely parks and plazas along the Ottawa River, pedestrian walkways, moving parking to the campus perimeter, and a paved half-moon shaped controlled drive from Bancroft Street in front of University Hall.

President Dan Johnson said the plan highlights some of his personal priorities - such as utilizing the river's potential and focusing on the proposed Northwest Ohio Science and Technology Corridor.

"We're going to see some exciting things happen," Mr. Johnson said.

Savage Hall is expected to receive a complete face-lift that will include upgrades such as suites, new seating, and office space. The $30 million renovation and addition of an indoor athletic facility has the longest construction schedule, with a completion date in fall of 2009.

Exact details of the project have not been decided and still must go through a bidding process, Athletic Director Mike O'Brien said yesterday. He added the plans are contingent on outside fund-raising.

Rehabilitating the Memorial Field House, which was built in 1931, is expected to cost $31.6 million. With a target completion date of spring, 2009, the space would be used for classrooms and the College of Arts and Sciences.

That project is to entail lopping off the roof and adding another floor to the field house. The structure, once considered a possible future indoor practice facility for the football team and for other athletes, was the former home of the men's basketball and the track and field teams.

Scott Cunningham, a senior associate with The Collaborative Inc., told trustees his architectural firm did a study that showed the field house was a building worth renovating because of its historical nature on campus.

The largest price tag is for a $62.4 million science-laboratory building, which would be built just west of Carlson Library. The project depends on several relocations, the demolition of the student classroom annex, and private fund-raising.

Other elements of the master plan include:

●Demolishing the Snyder Memorial Building, Army ROTC Armory, steam plant, student classroom annex, grounds and fleet services building, and Westwood Research annex.

●Renovating the Bowman-Oddy Laboratories for $18.7 million.

●Bringing the College of Education under one roof after restoring Gillham Hall for $11 million.

●Building a $13.2 million addition to Stranahan Hall, which would be used as a complex for business learning.

●Seeking federal funding for a $25 million agricultural research service building, which would include research labs.

Funding for the plan was discussed at length yesterday and involves a variety of sources, said Bill Decatur, UT's chief operating officer and executive vice president.

"Now how are we going to pay for this? That has to be on everybody's minds," Mr. Decatur said at a special board of trustees meeting during which trustees unanimously approved the plan.

Specifically, Mr. Decatur said university leaders will borrow money to pay for the renovations. They also will seek state capital and federal revenue, money from public-private partnerships, raise private funds, and use things such as general, parking, and facility fees as sources for the upgrades.

Mr. Decatur has designated $224.1 million probable funding sources, leaving $68.4 million still needed for the projects.

"I think it's doable financially," said UT trustees Chairman Dan Brennan. "We're $70 million short, more or less, but we have a 10-year period to come up with it."

He added that the master plan is not tied in any way to rising tuition costs at UT. Money is earmarked separately by the state for facility upgrades at universities, versus other state funds that help to support employee salaries and student instruction.

The master plan is the result of more than two years of work by UT leaders and three outside architectural groups, who were paid $500,000 for the job. The planning included meetings with students and employees, neighborhood groups, and Toledo city leaders, among others.

The master plan yesterday received mixed reviews from students and members of the campus community.

Guy Beeman, president of student government, said he was pleased that student input was taken into consideration during the entire process. He added that students will continue to push for UT leaders to pursue future retail and commercial offerings for students on both sides of Dorr Street, something that wasn't outlined in this 10-year plan.

However, the proposal does call for the university to attempt to acquire the BP gas station at Dorr Street and Secor Road. The general area is slated for a new parking garage, commercial mixed uses, and a new vehicle entrance to campus.

Deb Angel, a UT student who uses a motorized wheelchair, said she believed her ideas about making the campus more accessible to people with disabilities also were taken into account. One suggestion she made was for access to Rocket Hall from Secor Road, and a pedestrian walkway is planned there.

But she expressed concern that some student fees are being earmarked for the projects. In all, $30 million of the total price tag is slated to come from a variety of campus fees, which includes things like student general fees and parking fees.

Tobin Klinger, a spokesman for the university, said fee caps for universities apply both to instructional fees and student fees, which means leaders could not just start hiking those fees to support the master plan.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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