Weld Hall Renovation in Preparation

By David Nelson david.nelsonmn@yahoo.com

Weld Hall is one of the oldest and perhaps the most recognizable buildings at MSUM. The exterior of the building is quite revealing of that fact. With that, there are several small details that are still untouched. The building is somewhat of a symbol of the past; however, it is still used for classes. Every day, the doors to the building are swung open and closed by droves of students. Naturally, over the course of time, the state of objects tends to become worn out and even inadequate to a degree. From this sentiment, certain aspects of the architecture of Weld need to be updated.  

It has been around fifty years since Weld has last been modified in any capacity. Which places the last renovation to be sometime in the 1970s. It was then decided, several years ago,  that the historic college hall required a renovation. 

In 2018, Minnesota State Congress approved funds for a design for a renovation to be created. The funds were provided through a bonding bill that passed both the house and the senate. For further context, if colleges wish for certain projects to be completed, those responsible must draw up a proposal to submit to a system office. Those who work in the office go through the submittals and prioritize a list of projects that is eventually seen by members of  Congress. Year by year, the number of projects approve varies depending on how much legislatures are willing to spend in that category each year. Usually, college projects are looked at by Congress if the year is an even number. After the bill passed, the school received a little over half a million dollars for the first part of the project to be put into motion. 

Photo by Ayaka Takine

In the past couple of years, designs have been drawn up for new additions and improvements to be included in the building. Specifically, one of the main issues that the building has presently is accessibility. There are no wheelchair-accessible ramps at the entrance to the oldest building on campus. This is an issue that has been a hindrance for many years. 

Additionally, an alternate entrance will be placed on the other side of the building. This will also address the problem of accessibility for not only students but also visitors, unfamiliar with the campus layout. 

Some of the other planned additions will include touching up on some of the dated finishes throughout the building, a new set of steps, and a new elevator. In the lowest level of  Weld, the current lighting setup doesn’t allow an adequate amount of light by the entrance. The reconfigurement of the steps in that location will assist in remedying that problem. There are several more additions and updates planned for the renovation. The ones highlighted is simply the tip of the tentacle. 

Photo by Ayaka Taiken

The most notable renovation will be done in the Weld auditorium. Brenda Norris,  Executive Director of Facilities Management, described how the original design of the space and how the new additions will bring back some of those original elements. She said, “We’re going to put a balcony back into the auditorium because the original one had a balcony. The balcony will be reinstated where the English offices are now. This is being done to accommodate for  better sightlines and more seating.” 

Along with the reinstallation of a balcony, the stage and the seating will both be extended. This will be done to be able to seat a full orchestra when it’s time for a performance or concert. More area on the stage will allow room for the right number of musicians and instruments to be able to sit in that space. 

Even though there are several new changes that will be put in place when it comes time for construction to commence, there are a couple of historic elements to the building that will be preserved. Brenda Norris stated, “The stone and the brick of the outside will stay the same. Also, the wood in the auditorium ceiling hasn’t been altered since it was made, we plan to keep it that  way.” Even amongst the updates, the building will still hold on to some of the more historic features inside and out.  

Brenda Norris will oversee the next phase of the project once the funding has been approved by congress. As of now, the project is waiting for the appropriate amount of funds to start construction. This phase of the renovation project will require a little short of twenty million dollars. The project had been ignored for a few years but since the design was approved in 2018,  there is momentum behind the effort. The Weld Hall renovation is second on the list of priority school projects submitted by Minnesota state colleges. With that context, it is reasonable to assume that the second set of funds will also be approved. It’s speculated that the second phase of the project will begin sometime in 2022. 

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