Published: Dec. 7, 2022

Hellems Arts & Sciences Building and the Guggenheim Building are CU Boulder’s top priorities for renovation, Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke told legislators Tuesday, and state funding will be critical to correct safety and comfort issues, improve energy efficiency, and modernize the buildings for student success.

“We really and truly believe that investing in higher education is a benefit to all of Colorado,” O’Rourke said, noting that state funding helps build a strong and competitive economy and aids 36,000 students at CU Boulder. “We do our best to be good stewards of the funding and use it strategically for the benefit of Colorado.”

The annual presentation to the state Capital Development Committee allows University of Colorado campuses and state agencies to outline requests for maintenance and construction funding so the committee can make recommendations to the Joint Budget Committee.

Prior to arriving at the CDC, the projects are vetted extensively at the campus and system levels, approved by the Board of Regents and prioritized by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

At the hearing, O’Rourke was joined by Chris Ewing, CU Boulder acting vice chancellor for infrastructure and sustainability, CU President Todd Saliman, Regent Nolbert Chavez and representatives from the other CU campuses.

The Hellems Building renovation is split into three phases. The state has already funded phases one and two, and the campus is about a third of the way through the design process thanks to that support, O’Rourke said.

The third and final phase of funding would allow the campus to complete design in spring 2023 and start construction next summer, with a goal of reopening the building in spring 2026.

This final phase is estimated to cost $42 million, of which the university will provide 60%, making the total state request $17.1 million, O’Rourke said. Renovations will address ADA compliance, fire safety, and indoor air quality, as well as sustainability goals.

Built in 1921, Hellems serves tens of thousands of students every year. About 82% of undergraduates pass through Hellems during their college career, and 25,000 credit hours were taught in the building last year, he said. It’s also home to the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, the site of the popular Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

The campus is incorporating student input into the design to create a welcoming space to support learning, inspire collaboration and help create a sense of community.

The Guggenheim Building, CU Boulder’s second priority project, requires substantial renovation to almost all of its systems at a total estimated cost of $42 million. With the campus’s 60% contribution, the state would need to supply $16.8 million to fund the project. 

The building offers some office space but is primarily used for academic instruction, so improvements to Guggenheim would be felt immediately by students, O’Rourke noted.

O’Rourke also described the campus’s efforts to address deferred maintenance needs, which total $1.4 billion when housing and auxiliary buildings are included.

And he described the energy efficiency and decarbonization efforts included in the Campus Master Plan, which sets the agenda for campus facilities over the next decade and into the future.

CU Boulder just hosted the Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit with United Nations Human Rights, which drew more than 4,300 participants in person and virtually from 99 countries to discuss solutions for climate change that support human rights.

“We want to help envision a brighter future, and making our facilities sustainable is part of that,” O’Rourke said.

With a full agenda, committee members asked no questions on CU Boulder’s presentation. Current Senator and Representative-elect Tammy Story (D-Conifer) noted before the presentation that the committee tends to support ongoing projects.

“It just doesn’t make sense to not finish a project that you started,” she said. “It’s a huge economic problem, and foundationally, to a process it’s problematic.”