Jan. 21, 2003
CONTACT: Ward Mullens



YPSILANTI – The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents authorized the administration to construct a new student union and renovate McKenny Union at a price not exceeding $45 million. The action was approved at the Board’s regular meeting Jan. 21.

“Pray-Harrold and Mark Jefferson remain our top priorities for state-funded projects. We are doing everything we can to secure funding for these two very important facilities, however, we have to wait until state funding is available,” said Patrick Doyle, vice president of business and finance.

Pray-Harrold and Mark Jefferson are capital projects where the state provides 75 percent of the cost to build, with the university contributing the remaining 25 percent. The state does not fund non-academic building projects, Doyle said.

“The new union is the University’s top non-state funded capital project and one that has consistently been identified by the EMU Student Leader Group as its number-one priority. We are moving ahead with this because a new union is needed to accommodate Eastern Michigan’s growth; interest rates are extremely low; and construction businesses are extremely aggressive. This is an excellent opportunity for EMU.”

McKenny Union, named for former Michigan State Normal College president Charles McKenny (1912-33), was originally built in 1931 and was partially renovated in 1992 when the focus was primarily on the cosmetics of the building, said Doyle. After meeting with experts, several problems were identified with the proposed expansion of McKenny, he said. The underground utilities surrounding the area and parking posed logistical problems. There also were limited expansion options, and added costs due to the building’s historic designation. All together, the project became cost prohibitive.

Scheduled to open in fall 2005, the new union will be located between Oakwood and Mayhew roads, on the site of the Pine Grove apartments. The apartments would be razed over the next 27 months, starting July 2003. Approximately 150 residents would be affected over the course of the project.

The projected cost for the entire project – which includes building a new 165,000 square foot student union and renovating McKenny Union, is $45 million. The new student union would cost $37.5 million and McKenny’s renovation would cost $7.5 million. The $45 million price tag is $15 million less than the proposed cost for the initial plan to expand McKenny.

The project would be funded by the sale of bonds ($37.5 million) and University resources ($7.5 million). University resources include restructuring debt ($5.9 million); allocation of reserves and current retail and food vendor lease payments; and general fee dollars designated by the Board expressly for the project ($1.6 million.)

A new student union fee would be assessed at 75 cents per credit hour beginning the summer 2003 term and increased an additional 75 cents per credit hour in summer terms 2004 through 2006, at which time it would be capped at $3 per credit hour. This action would generate $375,000 the first year and increase to $1.5 million in the fourth year (FY 2006.).

“It’s important to keep in mind that this is not an either/or set of projects (McKenny vs. Pray-Harrold and Mark Jefferson). We remain committed to improving our academic facilities and are working hard with the state to secure the necessary funds to move forward with Mark Jefferson and Pray- Harrold,” Doyle said.