New location, design for STEM facility given approval
Planned renovations to existing science facility curtailed due to fundraising shortfall
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The University Commission for UW-Marshfield/Wood County met Wednesday night and unanimously approved the site and design of a new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) building. However, planned renovations to the existing science facility on campus have been significantly scaled back.
Initially, the plan to both renovate the existing Aldo Leopold Science building and build a new STEM facility was projected as an $8 million project. The city of Marshfield and Wood County would each chip in $1 million, and the other $6 million needed to be privately raised. However, private fundraising has thus far amounted to $3.6 million.
The Marshfield Common Council made the city’s contribution to the project contingent on the fundraising effort reaching its $6 million goal by Sept. 30 of this year but also spelled out that if fundraising fell short, “It (the project) may be redesigned based upon the amount of funds available.”
City Administrator Steve Barg said in an email to Hub City Times that the city will still contribute $1 million to the project even if the $6 million is not raised. Roxie Wetterau, executive director of the University Foundation supporting UW-Marshfield/Wood County, which is spearheading the fundraising effort, said that there are still potential donors who could kick in more money to the project.
Representatives working on the project from the architecture firm Bray Architects said a figure of $5.6 million would allow for the new facility to be constructed but leave very little in the budget for renovation to the Aldo Leopold Science building.
Renovations to the Aldo Leopold Science building would be limited to “selective demolition,” said Alan Wold of Bray Architects.
“For instance in the chemistry lab, we would be removing fume hoods and built-in gas lines, just the minimal amount so that those rooms could be used as generic classrooms and aren’t just sitting empty,” Wold said.
If more money comes in through the fundraising process, it would likely be allocated to further renovations of the Aldo Leopold Science building.
Wold and Stephen Kuhnen of Bray Architects detailed the design and site of the STEM facility for the UW-Commission prior to approval on Wednesday night. Originally, plans called for STEM facility to be built to the eastern side of the Aldo Leopold Science building, essentially eliminating the circle drive on campus. Now the STEM facility will be built north of the Aldo Leopold Science building, in effect giving the campus a new front entrance facing out to Fifth Street.
“One of the benefits of this site location is that it has a lot of exposure along Fifth Street and is in sort of a centralized location to get us sort of into the middle of the campus core,” Wold said.
The STEM facility will be two stories. The first story will house two labs, one for microbiology and another multipurpose lab. It will also have student study spaces, a lounge and commons area, and some office space. Floor two will include two chemistry labs, office spaces, student study spaces, and a corridor running to the Aldo Leopold Building. Wold said the STEM facility is currently designed to be “in the neighborhood of 20,000 square feet” and noted the addition of “give or take 20 (parking) stalls” is also part of the plan.
Kuhnen said the plans are running slightly over budget but that he was confident his firm and the project manager, Miron Construction Company Inc., could identify ways to make the project fit a $5.6 million budget.
“We’re trending a little bit over budget right now, but we’re not to the point where we’re concerned,” Kuhnen said. “We’re really close, and we know that we can get this building delivered to you.”
The design for the building has been somewhat fluid, and commission member Donna Rozar raised the concern that donors may have given money to the project for a specific room or item that may have been cut from the plan or changed.
“If what they donated for is not what they’re going to get, there may be some really hard feelings,” Rozar said.
Michelle Boernke, regional associate dean for administration and finance at UW-Marshfield/Wood County, said that all donors signed an agreement stating funds given were for the project in general. Donors, Boernke said, would be approached if the item to which they pledged money changed in the plans, and project planners would work with them on a potentially different naming opportunity.
“Basically we will work with each donor, if things change, as to where we can put their naming right on something else,” Boernke said. She added that the current plan for the new facility is actually more square footage than the original concept, and some new naming opportunities have materialized.
The project is expected break ground in July of this year and is planned to be ready for classes in the fall of 2017.