Banding together for a better campus

Designers share updated building and street concepts with UND Coulee to Columbia Committee

Coulee to Columbia Committee 2018

The Coulee to Columbia Committee, led by UND Associate VP for Facilities Mike Pieper (center), is a combination of UND representatives, students, alumni and community leaders charged with enhancing the campus experience, with a special focus on the University Avenue corridor. The team met on Jan. 12 to give feedback on a number of proposals. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today

An eruption of applause kicked off a Jan. 12 gathering of UND representatives, alumni, Grand Forks community leaders and campus designers.

The fanfare was for Mike Pieper, UND associate vice president for facilities, who’s celebrating just over a year of service to the University. One of his many accomplishments was the initial assembly of the people in this room – the Coulee to Columbia Committee – one year ago. Humbly shaking off the well-wishes, Pieper jumped to business.

“One of the reasons why we brought this group together originally is the University was talking about three rather large projects that were on University Avenue – the School of Business, the Chester Fritz Library and the Memorial Union,” Pieper said. “The idea was, how do we bring consistency to those projects and get the most out of those investments.”

Coulee to Columbia – an initiative to enhance the “aesthetic experience” of the UND campus along University Avenue in order to recruit and retain new generations of leaders in action – has evolved into a dynamic plan that also includes engagement spaces, pedestrian mobility, signage and housing prospects.

The committee will ensure that the enterprise’s building, rejuvenation and demolition projects are mutually consistent, but also fit into the overarching UND Campus Master Plan.

Coulee to Columbia supports Goal No. 3 of the One UND Strategic Plan – delivering more educational opportunity on campus.

“The idea that students make up their mind whether they want to go here within the first seven minutes makes this Coulee to Columbia component of Goal No. 3 vitally important,” said UND President Mark Kennedy. “We’re pleased with the progress we’re making and pleased that we can share this with the broader community to get their input.”

UND students may vote this year whether to support a multi-million dollar Memorial Union renovation/addition with student fees. The proposed design would incorporate a bright atrium connecting Memorial Union with McCannel Hall. Rendering courtesy of WTW Architects.

UND students may vote this year whether to support a multi-million dollar Memorial Union renovation/addition with student fees. The proposed design would incorporate a bright atrium connecting Memorial Union with McCannel Hall. Rendering courtesy of WTW Architects.

Big three

Memorial Union

Pieper presented proposed changes to the Memorial Union with a sweeping video rendering, something he says has sparked “good dialogue” among students, who may vote this spring or fall whether to support the multi-million dollar renovation/addition with student fees. The project would then need state approval in 2019, with construction taking around three semesters to complete.

As it stands, the project would connect McCannel Hall and the current Memorial Union, overtaking Second Avenue North with a bright and welcoming indoor promenade that would serve as a gathering space, café, and winter escape.

“If you think about a day like today, when it’s sunny but cold, that atrium area is going to be highly magnetic and attractive to students,” President Kennedy told the committee.

College of Business & Public Administration

JLG Architects showed the committee what’s possible if $70 million in contributions is raised for a state-approved new College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA), which could be placed just west of the Chester Fritz Library and north of Merrifield Hall and would connect all three buildings through the upper floors.

The firm talked with stakeholders to see how a new environment could best serve students, and came up with a 116,000 square foot building that incorporates flexible classrooms and technology for active teaching and learning, as well as spaces for advising, collaborative research, business and community events, career fairs, speakers and more.

“We want our new home to be open and inviting, and to welcome the community,” said interim CoBPA Dean Steve Light. “We’re a career launch pad for our students, so our building design reflects the relationships we create between classroom and career, as well as campus and community.”

Pieper reiterated that these were merely preliminary concepts to support fundraising efforts.

Chester Fritz Library

The scope of a potential $21 million Chester Fritz Library renovation is taking shape, with a design firm contracted and $7 million in funding in place. The project has already received state approval, and would be the library’s first major renovation since 1981.

An exact wish list is yet to be worked out, but the planning committee has some ideas to start the process.

Pieper suggested that one option is to move forward with the current $7 million, look at updating the flow of the library so users can enter and exit easily, and add a potential link to the proposed new business school – making the most out of both of projects.

CoBPA rendiering

The above image shows a conceptual design for a proposed new College of Business & Public Administration, if $70 million in contributions can be raised as approved by the state. The design would connect Merrifield Hall (left) and the Chester Fritz library (right) through the upper floors. Rendering courtesy of JLG Architects.

Riveting roads

Mark Lambrecht of AE2S explained how his unique project team – including JLG Architects (for landscape architecture and campus branding continuity) and KLJ Engineering (for traffic studies focused on vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle flow) – will work in concert with the City of Grand Forks’ upcoming street improvement plans.

This partnership of experts will help Grand Forks and UND align funding and traffic data to create the best possible University Avenue experience, both in safety and aesthetics.

Lambrecht showed the committee how medians could be used to funnel pedestrians to safe crossing areas and how consistent street lighting and bus stops could better connect UND with downtown.

Grand Forks recently passed a sales tax increase, 60 percent of which is designated for core street projects. City Administrator Todd Feland believes that could give the city more capacity to participate.

“Because we’re leveraging all of these different partners, it’s just another way we can supplement some of this and make this another great and attractive corridor in the city,” Feland said.

Coulee to Columbia Committee

UND President Mark Kennedy (center) thanked Mike Pieper (right) for his work in leading the Coulee to Columbia initiative, which is an important part of the One UND Strategic Plan’s goal of recruiting and retaining new generations of leaders in action. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Everywhere a sign

Beautified buildings and roads won’t mean much if visitors get lost as soon as they reach campus.

Pieper says when he first came to UND, he noticed a complete lack of wayfinding signage. “If you’re not from UND, I don’t know how you find your way,” he said.

Planners will develop a network of branded signage in five categories – buildings, parking lots, vehicle, pedestrian, and major gateway entrances. Facilities has met with campus departments to determine what signage is most necessary to get visitors where they need to go.

Discussion expanded into ideas for bringing more vigor and vibrancy to the UND campus, including early concepts for a modern and efficient steam plant in an area near Facilities, opportunities for Greek housing growth along University Avenue, and utilization of the J. Lloyd Stone House as a student engagement center.

“Our goal is to enhance and build upon what we already have,” Pieper said. “I think with the hard work of everybody in this room, and others, we will do that.”

President Kennedy praised Pieper to conclude a productive summit. “Has Mike done enough in his first year?” he joked, affirmed by smiles and nods.