MSUM eyes CMU remodel

The pre-design floorplan for the main level in the CMU.

The pre-design floorplan for the main level in the CMU.

If all the plans fall into place with the Comstock Memorial Union reconstruction project process, based on the tentative schedule, the project should finish in early spring 2017.  April 24, 1967, was the grand opening of the original CMU building. MSUM is predicting to have the newborn CMU grand opening celebration on that exact date 50 years from the original grand opening.

Currently, the project is only in the pre-design process. The pre-design method includes determination of the cost, scope of the project, rough layout of the blueprint and a time schedule.

The pre-design calls for extra daylight, a coffee house, a welcoming entry, more social space, a student involvement neighborhood, fireplaces and other possible additions.

“What I think is exciting in the pre-design process is the fireplace lounge and the sun garden. The plan with the addition is to invite light into the building,” said Layne Anderson, interim director of the CMU. “Because one thing that I think is challenging in a northern climate is that we have 3-to-4 feet of snow for, what feels like, nine months out of the year.”

Anderson said the pre-design calls for a large section that brings daylight into the building and adds warmth with the fireplaces. Designing a space that is warm and inviting creates opportunities for human interaction and completely transforms the facility.

In the pre-design, the space labeled “student organizations” is designed to develop a student involvement neighborhood. It’s the idea of creating space where, many of MSUM’s different student groups that have space in the building, would be co-located in a space that is made transparent, so students can see all the activity in the space and creating opportunities for unexpected and impulsive interaction.

This is expected to create opportunities for networking, connections and collaborations in some of our cultural and diverse groups. In this co-located concept, we become a neighborhood and create an exciting place to encourage students to get involved in organizations and groups on campus.

“What we want to do is take what we designed in the pre-design and build upon that,” Anderson said.

“In the pre-design, its concepts are not final,” Anderson said. “What happens in the spring is we start to look at what it will actually look like.”

For about 10 years, MSUM has been setting aside some additional funds to help build towards CMU’s redesign project.

MSUM could afford an $8.5 million project based on the revenue from the CMU and the student fees that are charged. There is little over $4 million saved in the repair and rehabilitation fund; it’s kind of like a savings account Anderson said. Extra money has been deposited into the building fund for the redesign project of the CMU. Before beginning the bidding process, MSUM should have little over $4.5 million saved. This $4.5 million saved will help towards the $8.5 million project.

“We have half of the cost saved, and half of it we get through a bond,” Anderson said. “We have no concerns in reaching that last amount.”

After the total $4.5 million is reached, the revenue fund bond process begins – it’s compared to taking out a loan for a house. An additional $4 million dollar bond will be required.

Students today are helping to support this big project. If they graduate in December or May, they will not see the project, but they are helping to pay it forward.

Students fees are a little bit higher; they are going toward the fund so MSUM can achieve this project in the future.

“We have been trying to buy down the cost of the mortgage payments because we could not afford $8.5 million mortgage payments,” Anderson said. “We just don’t make enough revenue, but we could afford $4 million mortgage payments.”

The CMU project is in its final stages of approval to move forward with the process. On Oct. 16, the complete document of the predesign is presented to the system office. If granted approval to move forward, the plan at that time is to release RFP (request for proposal) for architectural services this fall. An architectural firm is then hired in spring 2014. A group of students will come in a review the design process. Finally, the process will begin and have much student involvement.

“The Student Senate has been involved in the project since the very beginning,” Kevin Struxness, Student Senate president, said. “Any changes, such as in the budget or pre-design, gets presented to us.”

The official design process is predicted to be completed in fall 2014.

“The bond that we are participating in, the revenue fund bond, states that we can’t actually go out to bid that project ‘til those bonds are sold,” Anderson said. “When have that money – the saved $4.5 million and the $4 million from the February and March of 2015 bond sale — then we can go out and bid, and hopefully have some successful bidders. Then we can start construction in the spring of 2015.”

Anderson said that this is the first big significant step that we have to clear the system office hurdle of approval. Once approved, everything starts to fall into place.

“We hire an architect firm, go through the design to actually plan what we want to be built, and that takes about a year,” Anderson said. “Then that sets us up for the 2015 bond sale.”

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