WORCESTER — Worcester State University is seeking state assistance for a $67 million reconstruction project of its on-campus student center.
According to a copy of the university’s capital funding application submitted to the state’s Capital Management and Maintenance Division, the nearly 47-year-old facility is now too small for the student population of the campus, which has more than doubled since the student center was built.
The building, a major access route between the upper and lower sections of campus, also creates an inconvenience for students with disabilities, who must walk a long way to navigate the building, WSU officials said.
The project isn’t the university’s top construction priority – it would be the planned repurposing of the former Temple Emanuel building on May Street into an academic facility – but trustees hope DCAMM will at least be willing to help. to fund a study that would pave the way for a new student center within the next decade.
“They (DCAMM) have very limited funds – we’re not going into this with any expectation of it happening in the next five years,” said Kathleen Eichelroth, WSU vice president for administration. and finance. “That’s a long shot.”
But university officials said there was also a need to replace the student center, which had already performed poorly in a campus-wide facilities assessment conducted about 15 years ago.
“The deterioration is evident,” Ms Eichelroth said, adding that due to the building’s aging mechanical systems, simply continuing to carry out small repairs and renovations would be an expensive and ultimately unproductive option. Deferred maintenance of the center alone, according to the university’s submission to DCAMM, would cost approximately $42 million.
At the same time, the center remains an important student center. “The building kind of serves as the heart of the campus,” said Julie Kazarian, the university’s dean of student affairs. It houses the campus bookstore, a food court, and numerous offices and meeting and event spaces for student use.
But the building is also limited, Ms. Kazarian pointed out; it does not have a modern vocational guidance service centre, for example. What it does have is a lot of wasted space, according to university officials, who said the planned facilities study could hopefully show a way to build a smaller and better replacement. more efficient that would still provide more convenience to the more than 6,500 students who use it. .
They also hope the center’s new design will create a more direct route for students with disabilities. The current building, which directs these students to a single elevator, “is working for now,” Ms Eichelroth said, “but it’s certainly not ideal.”
If DCAMM agreed to help fund the project, WSU trustees said the state would likely pay up to half the cost because it is a non-academic building. The university’s price estimate, which calls for $48 million to be spent on the actual construction, is just a placeholder until the proposed study can produce a more exact figure, they said. they stated.
The university submitted its funding application to the division last month, just before the deadline.
Pending DCAMM’s response, university officials are also continuing to work on the May Street construction project, for which a preliminary use study was completed a year ago. “We are thinking” right now, Ms Eichelroth said, noting that one of the things they are investigating is how to finance the project, which is not eligible for DCAMM funding, since the building technically belongs to Worcester. State University Foundation, not the school itself.
Scott O’Connell can be reached at Scott.O’[email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ScottOConnellTG