Wave of UO construction gaining momentum

Story Aside Info

Workers gut the fourth-floor interior of Straub Hall (photo by Joe Mosley)
Workers gut the fourth-floor interior of Straub Hall (photo by Joe Mosley)

Seven construction projects to support the University of Oregon's core academic mission will pump a combined $299.74 million into the economy and create more than 2,700 construction jobs as the projects' starting dates are staggered over the coming year.

Two of the projects – a combined $44 million in maintenance, seismic upgrades, renovation and classroom expansion at Straub and Earl halls, and a $50.25 million Student Recreation Center expansion – are getting underway this summer.

The $95 million Erb Memorial Union expansion and remodel will begin this winter, University Housing's $8 million central kitchen and woodshop project will begin in January and the $16.75 million Science Commons and Research Library expansion and remodel will start design work immediately. An $84.75 million housing project was authorized by the Oregon Legislature but has not yet been scheduled.

The legislature also approved $990,000 for a project that will add collections storage and exhibition space to the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

Meanwhile, smaller projects underway around campus this summer include exterior renovations at Hendricks Hall and the Chiles Center, a roof replacement at the Clinical Services Building, a fire line upgrade along 13th Avenue and a sewer line project along 15th Avenue.

"The university is responding to enrollment growth and the need to update our facilities so that they can best fulfill the needs of students and faculty," said Chris Ramey, associate vice president for Campus Planning and Real Estate. "We have an ambitious construction schedule over the next many months."

Summer is a traditional start time for UO construction projects, with fewer students on campus and a reduced impact when areas become temporarily inaccessible. Some of the longer-term projects that are getting underway in coming months – including the renovations at Straub and Earl halls, the Student Recreation Center and Erb Memorial Union – will require detours and other work-arounds through much of the next two academic years.

Straub and Earl halls

Straub Hall began a previously funded $22 million deferred maintenance and seismic upgrade project in June, but renovation and expansion work at the 85-year-old building will continue through fall 2014.

The maintenance and seismic upgrade project will touch all of the building's 83,000 square feet in some manner. An additional $22 million project to add or upgrade classrooms for general university use will include 20,000 square feet of new space and the renovation of 29,600 square feet of existing space in Straub and Earl halls.

The project – which includes a 500-plus seat lecture hall – will create 700 new classroom seats and renovate 300 existing classroom seats. It will add capacity at the UO for 2,800 students in various disciplines.

"This project is a central element of our plans to address classroom shortage issues at the UO," said Ken Doxsee, associate vice provost for academic affairs. "We have made headway through better management of existing classrooms and some smaller projects that have added some space. But the bottom line is that we need to bring a significant number of new classrooms online."

Straub Hall has approximately 83,000 square feet of space on four stories, and a partial basement over a single-story center area.

The hall was built in 1928-29 as a dormitory for men, and Earl Hall was built in 1955 and attached to the east or rear side of Straub as additional dormitory space. Straub continued to serve as a residence hall until 1971, when it was converted into academic space to house the psychology department, and Earl remains a residence hall.

Gifts, grants and other funds are paying for half of the $22 million Straub/Earl classroom project, and state general obligation bonds – approved this summer by the Oregon Legislature – will pay for the remainder. The Straub seismic upgrade and the Straub/Earl classroom project will create about 396 construction jobs, combined.

Student Recreation Center

The Rec Center project, which has been anticipated for the past several years, will begin with the construction of a second building about the size of the existing one, before the two buildings are joined. The new building will be in the area that is now used for outdoor basketball and tennis courts.

The total project – new construction and renovation – will cover about 142,000 square feet. Some of the highlights of the new facility will include a 12-lane lap pool with two diving boards; a recreational pool and spa; doubled space for cardio and strength training; a new, three-court gymnasium; and upgraded mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

UO students voted in 2011 to authorize student fees which, along with revenue from the facility, will repay $50.25 million in bonds that are funding the project. It will create an estimated 453 construction jobs.

Erb Memorial Union

The EMU project will remodel and expand about 134,000 square feet of the current building. It will modernize what has been described as a hodge-podge to make the building more efficient, with more useable space for academic and co-curricular activities.

The original EMU was completed in 1950, with additions in 1962 and 1973, and renovations in 1980, 1986 and 1998.

The original structure will be renovated and the 1970s wing will be replaced in the upcoming project, which will include a 250-seat multi-purpose room for student programming, academic functions and conference space.

Students voted to authorize student fees that will repay $84.3 million in state bonds for the EMU project. The remaining $10.7 million is being paid for with private gifts, deferred maintenance money, existing funds from student fees and other university funds. The project is expected to create 856 construction jobs.

Central kitchen and woodshop

University Housing's 25,000-square-foot central kitchen and woodshop will be built on university-owned land between 17th and 19th avenues and Moss and Columbia streets. The property is currently occupied by student rental houses that are managed by University Housing.

Kitchen and related storage facilities that are currently located in Carson and Bean halls will be consolidated in the new building. The new kitchen will offer food preparation and distribution space to serve residence halls across campus, and for University Catering.

The woodshop will be a central space for the repair of damaged and broken furniture from various housing facilities, and will include loading and unloading areas. Separate woodshop spaces are currently scattered among UO housing facilities.

The new woodshop space could also be used for future expansion of the central kitchen.

The central kitchen and woodshop, which is expected to be completed by mid-June 2014, is being funded with $8 million in cash reserves from University Housing. The project will create about 72 construction jobs.

Science Commons and Research Library

The Science Commons and Research Library project will include a remodel of the existing, 30,000-square-foot underground library and the addition of a 3,500-square-foot space above ground. It will add seating capacity, a new digital technology lab, classrooms, space for student advising, visualization features to aid in the understanding of complex problems and discipline-specific science rooms to support discovery and learning.

The project will help to address a 71 percent increase in science majors at the UO since 2001.

The Science Commons and Research Library is being funded by $8.375 million in state general obligation bonds and a matching amount in private funding from Lorry Lokey and other friends of the university. The project will create an estimated 151 construction jobs.

Housing additions

The Oregon Legislature approved funding for a project that includes construction of four buildings – a 500-bed residence hall and three buildings with a combined 300 beds in apartment-style units.

A timeline for the housing project is not yet in place.

The project will help to address the UO's goal of housing 25 percent of its undergraduates on-campus and accentuating the university's residential nature.

Several of the UO's older residence halls are also scheduled to be remodeled or replaced over the next few decades. The Global Scholars Hall, which opened in fall 2012, was the university's first new residence hall since the Living-Learning Center was completed in 2006, and the second since Bean Hall opened in 1964.

The project will be funded with $84.75 million in bonds that will be repaid with revenue from the new buildings. It will create about 764 construction jobs.

Museum of Natural and Cultural History

As the recent legislative session wound down, State Rep. Nancy Nathanson, a Democrat from Eugene, helped secure $990,000 in the capital construction budget for the addition of collection storage, equipment and exhibition space at the UO's Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

The project will accommodate the transfer of the Jensen Arctic Collection of artifacts from Western Oregon University to the UO museum.

The MNCH project will be funded by state general obligation bonds. It will create about nine construction jobs.

- from the UO Office of Strategic Communications