Uncertainty of state funds forces hold on projects

New York City -- Penn State trustees today (March 18) put a hold on all new building projects, due to uncertainty in the appropriation the University may receive from the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed more than $660 million in cuts to public institutions of higher education. The cuts proposed for Penn State alone represent a decrease of $182 million, or 52.4 percent, in state funding for next year.

In an unprecedented move, the Board of Trustees opted to endorse the architectural selections for projects under consideration, but postponed final authorization for any capital projects to proceed until the funding picture becomes more clear, according to Al Horvath, senior vice president for finance and business.

"The tremendous uncertainty that the proposed appropriation cuts present forces us to operate with a maximum amount of caution and care," Horvath said. "Waiting until there is more clarity in our financial future is the best course for now. We must operate with an abundance of caution in all fiscal matters."

Horvath said that although architects are being named, he will not bring the projects forward for construction approval unless project funding is identified and fully secured. The following projects were discussed:

HUB expansion

Trustees approved the architectural firm of GUND Partnership of Cambridge, Mass., for an expansion to the University Park campus student union, known as the HUB-Robeson Center. Student facilities fees have already been identified and endorsed by the University Park Student Facilities Fee Advisory Committee for this project, along with funding from Barnes & Noble Bookstore and Housing and Food Services.

The HUB project, totaling approximately 28,000 square feet, will expand and enhance a variety of student-related activity and service spaces, such as additional informal gathering areas and multipurpose rooms. The project also will improve pedestrian circulation and accessibility.

The Hetzel Union Building (HUB) is the center of student activity at the University Park campus and is situated in the core of campus near the intersection of Pollock and Shortlidge Roads. Since 1998, when the HUB's last expansion was designed -- a move that incorporated a permanent facility for the Paul Robeson Cultural Center -- daily traffic and use of the facility has increased by more than 60 percent, making this expansion necessary.

Mary Edgington, senior director of Union and Student Activities, has canvassed student organizations for input into what space needs students have at the HUB-Robeson Center. Topping students' requests is seating, programming space and multipurpose space. "Design of this space will commence shortly and involve many discussions with a variety of constituent groups, primarily focused on student input."

South Halls renovations

Trustees approved the appointment of Barton Malow of Baltimore, Md., as the design-build team for proposed South Halls renovations. These residence halls are located on College Avenue near the Shortlidge Road intersection.

The four buildings that make up South Halls were built in 1957 and have had no significant renovations or changes made to them since that time. The residence halls that are part of this proposed project include Cooper, Cross, Ewing, Haller, Hibbs, Hoyt, Lyons and Stephens halls.

"The facilities are clearly outdated and no longer meet the expectations of today's students," said Horvath. "The renovation will create 32 living-learning communities within this complex that will better accommodate our students."

Pattee Library to consolidate and renovate

Trustees also approved the final design and authorized the awarding of contracts for the renovation of Pattee Library on the University Park campus, as designed by WTW Architects of Pittsburgh.

"Research libraries all around the country are creating new learning spaces for their students – technology-rich, student-centered hubs called knowledge commons," said Al Horvath, senior vice president for finance and business, in his report to the trustees. "Knowledge commons are not computer labs, nor are they study halls. They offer far more value to students by blending digital and multimedia technologies with the best of online and traditional library services."

The Pattee Library renovation will support the knowledge commons concept by renewing 36,450 square feet of library space and blending digital and multimedia technologies with the best of online and traditional library services.

"Penn State Libraries is ranked seventh of research libraries in North America and the knowledge commons will leverage the University's rich collections, services and expertise for increased student success," said Barbara Dewey, dean of University Libraries

The University also has launched a renewed effort to consolidate library, learning and technology support services in renovation projects at several campuses, and plans to carry the knowledge commons concept into future library planning at all campuses.

The total project budget is $7 million and is to be funded with gifts.

Architect appointed for Cedar Building renewal

Trustees approved the appointment of Kling Stubbins of Philadelphia, as architects for the Cedar Building renovation at the intersection of Fischer and Allen Roads.

Departments in the College of Education occupy the Cedar Building. Helping prepare outstanding educators, scholars and researchers, Penn State's College of Education houses programs in Rehabilitation & Human Services, Workforce Education and Education & Public Policy. The College of Education serves 2,687 undergraduate students and 1,327 graduates.

"There is an imminent need to replace failing mechanical systems in Cedar, as well as ceiling tiles, the electrical system, single pane windows, lighting fixtures and the fire alarm system," said Al Horvath, senior vice president for finance and business. "The building has had very few upgrades since it was built in 1971."

The trustees' action to delay construction at this time also gives the University administration authority to allow projects to move forward with design or construction phases when funding is determined to be more stable and secure. Approval will be on a project-by-project basis.

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Last Updated August 03, 2011