Making way for the future

Aging buildings fall to wrecking ball in effort to spruce up campus core, knock down costs

Strinden Center

The Strinden Center, former home of the Alumni Association& Foundation, is one of seven buildings being demolished on the UND campus this summer to clean things up and reduce maintenance costs. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

UND Alumni Association & Foundation Director of Finance Stephanie Peterson was among a small group of people on Wednesday (July 19), watching from afar as a big orange piece of machinery tore into the former Strinden Center on University Avenue.

Peterson has a personal connection to the building, a former church, which in recent years had been converted into an office facility. She spent the first five of her 10 years with the Alumni Association there.

Peterson said, however, her reason for coming to see the demolition was more curiosity than sentimental.

“I had just heard that it was going to be knocked down and thought it would be cool to come over and see it happen,” said Peterson, who walked away with a  memento from the occasion – a brick from the demolished structure.

The Strinden Center, which had been named for longtime UND alumni leader Earl Strinden, is the first of seven aging UND-owned structures that are slated to be demolished by contractors this summer, according to Brian Larson, associate director of construction management at UND.

Crews were still finishing up some of the old Strinden Center demolition today. The focus then moved to nearby 317 Cambridge Street for demolition of a residential structure that was the former home to the Center for Community Engagement.

Marla Anderson, Roberta Beauchamp, Cory Lien, Stephanie Peterson

UND Alumni Association & Foundation colleagues gather to say goodbye to the Strinden Center, which at one time was their workplace. The team was given some bricks from the demolition crew who started work on July 19. From left to right: Marla Anderson, Roberta Beauchamp, Cory Lien and Stephanie Peterson. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Unused structure

Built in the late 1980s, the Strinden Center originally was the United Campus Ministries Center before its conversion to an office building. It’s one of those structures that possessed little historical significance and showed its wear and tear prominently. Sitting center stage along University Avenue – UND’s main east-west corridor – the old Strinden Center had been unused in recent years.

UND President Mark Kennedy says the run-down structure stood out to him during his first visits on campus.

“It was clearly one that had been neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair,” Kennedy said of the old building. It’s not the kind of “Welcome to Campus” sign that a University leader like Kennedy wanted to see on such a prime piece of real estate.

Reducing costs

The North Dakota University System has determined UND has more than enough facility square footage within its campus footprint to conduct business. In an effort to further right-size the University and reduce deferred maintenance costs, which have been estimated to be as much as $500 million, UND has carefully studied which buildings should be permanently taken offline, which should be razed this summer and which should be torn down next summer.

Other buildings set to come down before UND’s Welcome Weekend in late August this year are a three-story structure at 314 Cambridge, another at 2912 University Avenue, the former International Centre (University Avenue), the former Women’s Center house (Hamline Street), and the one-time Era Bell Thompson Multicultural Center on University Avenue.

The services provided within these structures have been relocated to other suitable locations on campus. The University also has worked closely with the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission to meet all laws and guidelines when considering facilities for demolition.

317 Cambridge

Demolition also was this week for 317 Cambridge Street, a residential structure that was the former home to the Center for Community Engagement. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Prepping for the future

Next summer, plans call for the removal of Chandler Hall, considered the oldest structure on campus; as well as the UND Housing apartments north of University Avenue along Stanford Road and Northwestern Drive, Larson said.

Larson said that the new vacant lots and surrounding gravel parking areas will be left open as green space until other uses develop over time.

The added space would go a long way in making room for the beginnings of President Kennedy’s “Coulee to Columbia” initiative, which proposes a host of private, public and University partnerships to revitalize the heart of campus.

Sprucing up the campus makes sense because it would lead to more people wanting to be part of UND, according to Mike Pieper, associate vice president for facilities.

Pieper says surveys show that as many as 70 percent of prospective students rank the quality of campus facilities as a “significant” factor in whether they enroll.  Other studies have suggested undecided students make up their minds within 4 to 7 minutes of their first impression of a campus.

These are key reasons why the University is working hard to clear out some of the aging, run-down structures that dot its high-traffic center — from the English Coulee to Columbia Road.

“This is the heart of campus, and I might suggest that it is the heart of Grand Forks,” Kennedy said. “How this looks has an effect on how everyone looks at the rest of campus.”

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