BOT committee approves upcoming construction projects

lfalce@centredaily.comMay 8, 2014 

— Construction projects were a major topic at one committee meeting Thursday for the Penn State board of trustees.

One will start Monday.

The board’s committee on finance, business and capital planning recommended approval for a slate of projects that will kick off with the $52 million revamp of Steidle Building, home of the College of Earth and Mineral Science’s department of materials science and engineering. The board will vote on whether to give final approval to the projects at its meeting Friday.

First up on the list of proposed projects is Steidle Building.

Ford Stryker, assistant vice president for the Office of Physical Plant, said the building has insufficient electrical and mechanical systems, making it “not useful for modern material science.”

The work will include renovations to the original 1931 portion of the building while demolishing the 1939 addition to create 40,000 square feet of staff and student areas, including more modern and functional lab facilities the board hopes will attract more students and faculty to the department.

Steidle will be just one of the projects in coming years that will impact laboratory space. While new labs are important, renovating facilities takes those spaces off-line for months, leaving researchers and students in the lurch. The committee took a move to help that going forward, making use of an existing facility.

The Greenberg Ice Pavilion, the arena left vacant by the opening of Pegula Ice Arena last year, would be converted to laboratory space under the plan.

Stryker said that after looking at multiple possibilities for temporary lab space, “repurposing (Greenberg) holds the most promise.” The project is noted to have a tight schedule, with upcoming projects affecting chemistry and agricultural engineering labs. No cost estimates were attached at this point. Stryker said numbers are not typically part of a committee vote at this stage in a project.

Another older sports facility was also on the agenda. A $6 million renovation to McCoy Natatorium was recommended for approval by the committee, but some questions were raised along the way. An earlier proposal to build a new natatorium addition was on the table before, but Stryker said that was scrapped due to financial reasons. Some committee members asked how finances were affecting the needs of the university’s athletic facilities. Stryker said prioritization of the projects was more of a question for Director of Athletics David Joyner. A list of projects ranked by importance in that area is expected at the September board meeting.

However, Stryker told the committee that repairs to McCoy, including air handling, tile work and deck work, the most pressing of which will start this summer, would have been necessary anyway. Had new facilities been constructed, repairs were still slated for McCoy, which would then have been used for recreational and fitness purposes, not demolished or abandoned.

Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.

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