University focuses on campus buildings

Leslie Schelat

New buildings are sprouting up on college campuses nationwide. At Kent State, things are no different.

For the last several years, American School and University magazine reported record spending by colleges and universities on construction projects. In 2003, total costs topped $48 billion dollars, a 20 percent increase over the previous year.

University architect Tom Euclide said he did not have a specific dollar amount of what Kent State spends per year on construction projects.

“At any one time, our office handles about $250 million in ongoing projects,” Euclide said. These projects have an average six-year cycle from concept to completion and include renovations and new constructions.

One of the reasons for the recent construction boom is what Euclide referred to as “block obsolescence.”

This is when a large number of buildings were built at the same time and are now needing repairs and renovations at the same time.

“It’s a major problem,” Euclide said. “It’s requiring a ballooning of funding to address it.”

Not all students agree the quality of buildings on campus is a major concern.

“I’ve seen worse,” said freshman graphic design major Carrie Swanson.

Carrie Swanson and her twin, freshman fashion design major Crystal Swanson, said they do not think buildings at Kent State are in poor shape.

“They don’t need it so much,” Crystal Swanson said. “It’s more of a want.”

Kent State experienced a building boom in the 1960s. About 10 buildings were built in that decade alone, including most of the science buildings and Bowman Hall.

In order to lessen the impact of aging buildings on the university’s budget, Euclide said minor repairs are being done over time.

“In many cases, we’ll upgrade the central unit,” Euclide said. For example, one main water cooling center is built or repaired at a lower cost than fixing independent systems in several locations.

Euclide acknowledges this will not solve the problem, but it will help.

Progress is being made despite cuts in funding and numerous repair needs.

When Franklin Hall opens as the new home for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2007, it will mark the completion of the last of seven buildings on front campus.

With renovations of the Ballroom, the Student Center is entering the final stage of a three-year, $10 million renovation. Other completed projects in recent years include a new heating plant on Summit Street, renovations to Eastway and an addition to Cunningham Hall.

Plans are made to finish renovations on Oscar Ritchie Hall, the heating plant and Van Deusen, which is the last instructional building on campus that is not air conditioned.

Euclide said they would rather renovate old buildings than build new ones.

“It costs a lot more to build new buildings,” Euclide said.

He also said many of the older buildings on campus are meant to be renovated, not replaced.

Freshman photo illustration major Alissa Krizon said she would rather see the university spend its money on residence halls than classrooms.

“It depends on how bad the building is,” Krizon said.

The most recently completed new buildings at Kent State are the Centennial Court dorms. These six buildings came with a price tag of more than $50 million.

For $30 million, the university is reconstructing Stopher and Johnson halls, constructing a new location for the Honors College and resurfacing the walkways surrounding the new buildings.

Despite their hefty price tag, these buildings are needed as enrollment in colleges across the country is expected to increase. Euclide said renovations are necessary to add to the history of Kent State.

Contact general assignment reporter Leslie Schelat at [email protected].