UMD planning new dorm, dining facilities

The University of Minnesota Duluth is planning to construct a new dorm building and a dining facility at a total estimated cost of $59 million. The proposal is in its infancy but was included in the six-year capital plan approved by the Universit...

An aerial view of the UMD campus. (file / News Tribune)

The University of Minnesota Duluth is planning to construct a new dorm building and a dining facility at a total estimated cost of $59 million.

The proposal is in its infancy but was included in the six-year capital plan approved by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents' Finance and Operations Committee on Thursday morning.

If the project comes to fruition, city officials expressed hopes that it could ease some of the pressure students place on housing throughout the community.

UMD has a number of freshmen assigned to live in on-campus apartments, and the new dorm would provide space to house those students in a traditional dorm setting, which is a better fit for first-year college students, said Jeremy Leiferman, director of housing and residence life at UMD.

The university's existing dining facility is at capacity and the proposed new dining facility would enable it to feed more students on campus.


The size and construction cost haven't been finalized, but the dorm is expected to include up to 350 beds and the dining facility is expected to have up to 350 seats, Leiferman said. The location also hasn't been set, but a parking lot and wooded area near the Griggs housing complex and Burntside Hall is under consideration.

"We are seeing some strong enrollments here at UMD, which is great. The past few years, our enrollment has been good and we want to make sure we have enough housing for all of our students and that we don't necessarily have to have students in temporary housing or overflow housing. We want to be able to provide them housing space to live in right off the bat," Leiferman said.

In the past few years, UMD's incoming classes have been growing, with 2,673 new undergraduate students arriving on campus this fall - up more than 7 percent from 2015 admissions.

Broad benefit

The dormitory plans come as welcome news to many both on and off campus.

"Having a large student population that doesn't live on campus, due to the lack of options they find on campus, artificially drives up our rental prices and puts pressure on the entire housing market. So I think UMD adding 350 units would be really helpful, and I hope to see more of those types of investments in the future," said Duluth City Council President Noah Hobbs.

The project represents a positive change of stance for UMD, according to Keith Hamre, interim chief administrative officer for the city of Duluth.

"The university's policy had been to move away from having on-campus housing, so to see them provide more on-campus housing is good," he said.


"What creates some challenges for the surrounding neighborhoods around the campuses is parking, traffic and the conversion of existing housing stock to student housing," said Hamre, describing the spillover effect, as students look for off-campus places to live.

When students are able to live on or near campus, many of those issues can be alleviated, Hamre said, pointing to the BlueStone development as evidence of how well student housing within walking distance of classes has been received.

Lake Superior College recently has been working to attract a student housing development next door to its campus, as well.

Hamre said the city has talked to UMD, Lake Superior College and the College of St. Scholastica about their student housing needs.

"Obviously we keep looking for partnerships to help them provide as much housing adjacent or on their campuses as possible," he said.

The road ahead

The design phase for the new UMD residence hall is expected to begin this fall. If the project remains on track, construction will commence in the spring of 2020, and the new building will open its doors to students for the first time in the fall of 2021, Leiferman said.

The last dormitory to go up on UMD's campus was the Lawrence A. Ianni Residence Hall, which opened in 2011.


The Board of Regents also included a couple other UMD projects in its six-year capital plan:

• $6.4 million for A.B. Anderson Hall to renovate its mechanical systems and modernize classrooms serving the school's communication, philosophy, history and art departments in 2019; and

• $5 million to renovate the limnology research station, provide a lab plus new workstations, build an addition and relocate the Minnesota Sea Grant Center from its current site at UMD Chester Park in 2022.

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