by Geoff Larcom, Published September 07, 2011
Summer brings fewer classes and students to the Eastern Michigan University campus, but the warmer months also signal an annual flurry of construction activity.
This year offered an unprecedented amount of projects, renovations and repairs during the spring and summer terms. The culmination came Aug. 31, when faculty, staff and students moved back into the Pray-Harrold classroom building after a $42 million refurbishing project that lasted 16 months.
The project is a collaboration between the state of Michigan, which contributed $31.5 million in capital outlay funds, and EMU, which is contributing $10.5 million. The renovation involved a complete move-out from Pray-Harrold, with faculty and staff occupying many new or temporary offices in a broad campus collaborative effort called "Swing Space."
Moving completely out of the building, as opposed to a phased construction plan, saved more than $3 million in costs, which could the be used for items such as furniture purchases, and trimmed more than a year off construction time.
The most dramatic aspect of the project occurs on Floor 2, where a new student commons area occupies the middle area of the building. The commons area is encased in glass, with much improved comfort and sightlines.
Other features include extensive infrastructure and HVAC improvements, improved technology capability, renovated auditoriums and classrooms, and improved ADA access.
A formal, public ribbon cutting for the renovations is scheduled in the commons area at 10 a.m. on Sept. 20.
But Pray-Harrold was only part of the dozens of projects that contributed to a summer filled with construction fences, pedestrian detours and the rumble of bulldozers.
Work also continued on EMU's self-funded, $90 million Science Complex, with the basement, first and second floors of the Mark Jefferson Building in the finishing phase. Last February, EMU opened the addition to the Science Complex, including its distinct, suspended planetarium. The whole project is expected to be complete in Dec. of 2012.
Other noteworthy capital projects competed this summer include:
• Bowen Lot: The replacement of the Bowen Field House parking lot involved site improvements, plus extensive storm water drainage improvements to that end of campus that were mandated by the county. Cost: $856,000.
• Oakwood & Washtenaw intersection: This project, aimed at improving traffic into and out of campus, added turn lanes, signal light timing, landscaping and irrigation improvements along with pedestrian and ADA improvements. The cost of $775,000 included a $450,000 grant to EMU, Ypsilanti, and MDOT and an additional $325,000 from EMU.
• Campus way finding: New directional signs locating key campus buildings and kiosks with maps were placed on roads and sidewalks around campus. Cost: $200,000
• Parking lot pay-in lanes: Automatic payment systems are replacing the manned parking booths in the McKenny, Alexander, Pease, Student Center and Bowen Lots. Cost: $367,000.
• Athletic improvements: Fathead Inc., a company that produces large wall graphics and is headed by an EMU graduate, CEO Patrick McInnis, donated expansive vinyl signage along with installation costs to improve the inside of Rynearson Stadium. The signage includes large wraparound graphics for the marching band tunnel entrance coming out of the Convocation Center, the lower wall around the football field, the ring of honor around the top of the stands and on the locker room building at the field's north end.
In addition, EMU is paying Fathead $75,000 for additional signage on the exterior of the stadium. This includes vinyl signs behind the press box, along a fence, on both sides of the elevator wall and the word "EASTERN" spelled out in white letters on the upper north side of the Convocation Center.
Also, improvements costing $85,000 were made in locker rooms for the volleyball, women's track & field and gymnastics teams.
• Fletcher Building - Children's Institute: The movement of the Children's Institute to the Fletcher Building on the southwest of campus involved Improvements on the southern half of the building, storm water improvements and a toddler and pre-school playground. Cost: $850,000
• First-Year Center (Walton, Putnam, Phelps and Sellers residence halls): Wireless locks were installed for 610 doors at a cost of $780,000. Also, the entrance canopies and stairwell and Center Lounge curtain wall glazing were replaced at a cost of about $1.6 million.
Other summer projects included building a storytelling area north of Quirk Theater, and installing exercise equipment and fitness stations near the county Border to Border trail at Ainsley Park.
In addition, more than a dozen routine operations and maintenance improvements relating to items such as drainage, plumbing and steam lines totaled about $300,000.