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UWS to break ground on new buildings

Before 2003, it had been 30 years since the University of Wisconsin-Superior had seen many bulldozers and barricades. Starting today, that sight will become part of everyday existence on the tree-studded property. The first of three major constru...

Before 2003, it had been 30 years since the University of Wisconsin-Superior had seen many bulldozers and barricades.

Starting today, that sight will become part of everyday existence on the tree-studded property. The first of three major construction and renovation projects at a total cost of $64 million holds its groundbreaking this morning. The Rothwell Student Center is being replaced with a smaller, more efficient structure built to become LEED-certified, which means that it follows the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System. If it receives the certification, it will be among the first in the University of Wisconsin system to do so.

"We're trying to take as contemporary a view for construction on campus as we can," Chancellor Julius Erlenbach said.

That means the new student center, as well as the new Swenson Hall, an academic building, will be built with environmental sustainability in mind.

The Jim Dan Hill Library will be renovated during the construction of the student center, beginning at the end of May, and both have completion dates of fall of 2009. Construction of the academic building is expected to begin in February 2009 and be completed in the fall of 2010.

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In 2002, a study showed there was an overall lack

of space on campus and

classroom space wasn't always suited to needs of classes, said Jan Hanson, vice chancellor for administration and finance.

"People were housed in basements, and that wasn't a desirable environment," she said. "When visitors come, what they see is not indicative of some of the underlying issues with the spaces."

The new student center will cost $20.9 million and is funded by an increase in student fees -- $513 per student over five-year periods until bonding bills are paid -- and money from Campaign Superior, a UWS fundraising project. Students voted on the increase in 2004.

Hanson said the increase is noticed more on a campus the size of UWS, which has about 2,800 students.

"A $10 million building here will be felt more than a $10 million building at UW-River Falls," she said.

The building will feature a "green roof" covered with sedum and wildflowers to absorb heat and rainwater, and allow excess rainwater to fall into a rain garden. The timber and steel roof structure will recall the area ore docks.

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The building was designed from the inside out, said principal architect Jan van den Kieboom, with Workshop Architects of Milwaukee. The shape of the building is part of the master plan of the university to develop a circular quad at the center of the campus.

Parts of the building are arranged to support how people build relationships, and to allow chance encounters, van den Kieboom said.

"It's almost a functional inconvenience," van den Kieboom said. "Things are placed to create overlaps between spaces."

The area where student group spaces are situated is close to a fireplace lounge and major staircase.

"At this crossroads students who are just going to want to sit down at the fireplace and put their feet up have a chance to look into and see what's going on with student activities. It's a different way to think about buildings and grows out of a legacy of the importance of student unions in the state of Wisconsin," van den Kieboom said.

People involved in student government at UWS participated heavily in the design of the building. The current student center will be razed once the new one is finished, and a parking lot will be built in its place.

Renovation of the 40-year-old library will cost $7.7 million, which comes from the state and from the fundraising campaign. Library services will move mostly to the student center, but some items will be moved off campus and students will need to request them.

The 144,000 square-foot academic building is budgeted at $32 million, and will include money from the state, the James Swenson foundation and the fundraising campaign. Sundquist and McCaskill halls will be razed, and a new greenhouse will be built; all are included in the budget. The building will house 21 modern classrooms and labs and office space, and will have green, leafy "living screens" in front to help shade in the summer and heat the inside in the winter.

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Local labor is expected to be hired by construction contractors once building begins, Hanson said, and no houses will be torn down for the new buildings, which will be placed on green space on campus and on a parking lot.

Parking has been added to various areas surrounding the campus to defray the loss of spots to construction sites, but "campus is going to be in construction chaos mode," she said.

Already existing free Duluth Transit Authority rides and new agreements with the city, Wisconsin-

Indianhead Technical College and Pilgrim Lutheran Church for parking during construction will alleviate parking issues, administrators said.

Erlenbach hopes students, staff and faculty will tolerate the disruption by remembering the university's goal.

"People will be absolutely, dramatically impressed with the impact it's going to have on campus and certainly on the lives of students," he said.

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