FROM THE CHANCELLOR
Campus construction is an investment in CU’s future
Some day, when the history of the University of Colorado at Boulder is updated, the last year or two will likely be written about as a true renaissance in the transformation of our campus. Right now, of course, it doesn’t feel like a renaissance. With four major construction projects in progress – the Visual Arts Complex, Norlin Commons, Regent Crossing and the Center for Community – the campus feels like a giant construction site, with heavy equipment, cranes and orange detour signs all around.
This state of activity won’t last forever, but while the work continues this summer, I wanted to update our campus community and readers of Inside CU on our progress and give a few reminders about why we’re engaged in so many construction projects.
We began work last September on the Visual Arts Complex, a 170,000 square foot, $63.5 million building that will revolutionize the way art and art history are taught at CU-Boulder, and enable creative works and collaborations not yet imagined. The complex will house the University of Colorado Art Museum, the Department of Art and Art History, and will facilitate creative collaboration among artists from all disciplines – fulfilling a key goal of our Flagship 2030 Strategic Plan. The project is scheduled for completion in December of this year. Most of the traffic impacts of this project have come and gone, but I still want to thank our community for their patience and cooperation during construction.
A few yards away, the Norlin Commons project is progressing nicely. This is a relatively small and contained $5.1 million project that will construct a 15,050 foot commons area adjacent to the east entrance of Norlin Library. The commons will be a “24-7” facility that supports wireless and regular computer work stations, lots of instructional and technological innovations, and will house a coffee and snack shop. Construction is expected to be completed next month, and come fall, CU-Boulder students will have an even more user-friendly Norlin Library at their disposal.
I am pleased to report that one of the CU-Boulder campus’s most dangerous locales will soon be one of its safest and most innovative transportation crossroads. The Regent Crossing project on Regent Drive will transform what is currently a roadway that mixes pedestrians, cyclists and motorists into an overpass that allows traffic to pass over the top of Regent Drive, while pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and others move safely at grade beneath. The underpass connects the plaza at Fiske Planetarium to the new plaza at the Center for Community.
And speaking of the “C4C,” many folks have been astonished to see the size of the hole where this visionary complex will soon sit. The 323,000 square foot complex will be completed by September of 2010 and will become central to our student support and dining services operations. The upper floors of the C4C house a student center that will offer gathering spaces and a central location for service providers such as Career Services, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Office of International Education (OIE). On the lower levels, a state-of-the-art dining center will consolidate two older dining operations into one, freeing up space in current CU residence halls, and offering an improved dining experience for students. Beneath it all, a two-story underground parking garage will create additional parking spaces for the campus.
It’s important to remember that, like any investment in infrastructure, these projects will permanently change both the physical landscape and the educational landscape of CU-Boulder – they are investments in CU’s short- and long-term future. In the case of C4C, we are financing with auxiliary fees over the long-term, and have sought no state money in a time when such dollars are scarce. We are also leveraging some very valuable gifts from truly visionary private donors.
Some have asked how we are able to begin and complete these projects during tough times. First, we have a long track record of finding alternative funding when state funding is unavailable – though that funding is absolutely vital to our long-term strategy and success in capital construction. Second, we have visionary partners like the CU students who voted years ago for the fees to fund buildings like ATLAS, the Wolf Law building and the Visual Arts Complex, as well as the private donors I mentioned earlier. Third, we have long experience with cash funding of projects, and that experience has paid off in our funding-scarce present.
While we have trimmed about $30 million from our capital construction budget over the 2008-09 and 2009-10 budget cycles, these projects represent vital, core investments in our most important activities. They mark a transformation of our campus that will have its fulfillment for students, faculty and staff in the coming years, when the Flagship 2030 Strategic Plan moves to new stages of implementation.
For now, we endure the dust and the noise and the dirt. Down the road, however, we will look out from our new buildings and see an even brighter future. That sounds like a true renaissance.
Thank you for your patience and commitment to our campus.
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