Higher education busy with construction work

story by Jamie Smith
jsmith@thecitywire.com

Hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing through the construction industry in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith area and it’s all thanks to the growing needs at higher education institutions.

All of the major local college and universities have either recently complete, ongoing, or upcoming construction projects.

The most recently announced project is at John Brown University in Siloam Springs. JBU announced on Feb. 12 that the 93-year old men’s dormitory J. Alvin Brown Residence Hall would receive a $5.5 million renovation. A $3 million anonymous lead gift was announced at the time of the renovation announcement. Construction is expected to begin this summer and be completed by summer 2014. The facility has been enlarged or renovated several times in its nine decades.

“We're excited we will be able to continue the legacy of this historic building. We hear often from our alumni about the great memories and lifelong friends made when living in J. Alvin," said Dr. Jim Krall, vice president for advancement. “I am thankful that part of this lead gift is a matching opportunity for $1.25 million that will encourage alumni and friends of JBU to give the remaining funds needed to complete the project.”

According to Steve Beers, vice president for student development and facilities, there are several more ongoing projects on campus including:
• Simmons Great Hall, which is a 17,000 square foot dining and banquet facility that will be completed in 2013 at a cost of $5 million;
• North Slope Apartments, which are two, 10,000-square foot apartment buildings that will be a residence hall for 92 students. This project should be complete in summer of 2013 and cost $3 million; and,
• Care Clinic, which is a 2,500-square foot counseling and office space for the graduate counseling program. Also scheduled to be complete this summer, the project’s cost is $300,000.

RECENT COMPLETIONS, NEW STARTS
Not that it’s a competition, but two institutions of higher education were neck and neck when it came to finishing projects on their campus. Students at Harding University’s Northwest Arkansas Professional Center were able to move into the center’s new building on Jan. 28. The $3.1 million building has 12,000 square feet of office, classroom and meeting space. This is the first time Harding has had a permanent building in the region.

NorthWest Arkansas Community College recently opened its new health professions center, which is a $14.2 million, 83,000-square foot facility that serves students in the growing health professions division. Jim Lay, director of facilities and construction management, said there are only minor changes to be done on the building now that it’s complete.

The National Child Protection Training Center is one of the next projects to commence with a $3 million renovation project. The college is turning the old Highlands Oncology building into a state-of-the-art training facility dedicated to stopping child abuse. It will have a mock house, computer lab, classrooms, interview rooms and several court rooms. Meetings are scheduled to start with Nabholz Construction soon for the project and it is expected to take eight months to complete.

NWACC is still planning to build a permanent facility in Washington County, according to a report from Steve Gates, senior vice president for learning and provost. The college has a location chosen and is in working with local stakeholders as plans progress.

LEARNING AND ENERGY
At the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, there are two major projects going on including a $14.5 million library and renovation and constructing a new central energy plant.

Darrell Morrison, vice chancellor of finance, said the library project should be complete late spring or early summer.

“We had an older library facility that was built when we were a community college,” he said, adding that more lab space and room for more resources is necessary now that UAFS is a four-year university. When finished, the library will be twice the size of the original and will include a center for business enterprise.

“Included in the expansion is approximately 11,000 square feet of space on the second floor, funded in part with a $2 million grant from the Department of Commerce,” noted UAFS spokesperson Sondra LaMar. “This area is dedicated to community and business development under the terms of the grant and will include the newly established Babb Center for Student Professional Development and will house the Family Enterprise Center, which focuses on creating and growing multi-generational businesses.”

Morrison said the other building is a $1.7 million central energy plant and the corresponding new cooling and piping system that is an additional $2.1 million cost. This project should be done in August.

“It is to save energy and costs,” he said. “The payback on this project is 10 years from energy savings.”

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BIGGEST VARIETY
Not surprisingly, the largest local campus also has the biggest variety of projects. The University of Arkansas has 168 projects on the books right now, totaling $530 million.

Some of those are minor repairs or cleanup projects. Others, however, are major renovations or additions, or new construction.

The list of renovations, additions and new construction includes:
Renovating and adding on to John A. White, Jr. Engineering Hall
Faulkner Performing Arts Center (old gym turning into a performance arts hall)
Founders Hall (residence hall)
Housing Office
Vol Walker Hall addition and renovation
Ozark Hall restoration and honors wing addition
Hillside Auditorium (replacing science and engineering auditorium)
Football center
Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity restoration and addition
Pi Kappa Alpha Addition (renovation and addition)
Yocum Hall renovation
Hotz Hall renovation
Basketball practice facility
Athletic academic and dining Facility
Baseball and track indoor training facility
Leroy Pond Utility Plant
Classrooms and teaching labs
Mechanical engineering building renovation

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