Under construction

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Summer Construction

UND Director of Construction Management Brian Larson advocates patience as UND begins a summer of projects that include building construction, demolition and renovation; street reconstruction and modifications; parking lot improvements; and infrastructure additions. He said the best way to keep up with the changes ahead is to subscribe to Campus Renewal & Construction Updates. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

The upcoming summer construction season at the University of North Dakota is unprecedented in the modern era of the university’s history, according to Brian Larson, UND director of construction management.

Except for campus expansions in the 1920s and following World War II, Larson believes UND has never had so many projects occurring simultaneously, projects that will create challenges for drivers, pedestrians, visitors, faculty and staff adjusting to daily changes.

Larson advocates patience as UND begins a summer of projects that include building construction, demolition and renovation; street reconstruction and modifications; parking lot improvements; and infrastructure additions. He said the best way to keep up with the changes ahead is to subscribe to Campus Renewal & Construction Updates .  Leaving a little early for work might be a good idea, too, Larson recommended.

“The way you go to work today could change tomorrow based on the progress of our construction projects,” he explained. “I think it’s important that people take the time to subscribe for updates. That way, every time there’s a new post to the blog, they get an email. It’s very easy on your mobile device to pull up that email and get a quick update on what’s happening on campus.”

In addition, the Facilities Management Department is setting up a construction hotline and email address to help answer questions, expected to be available next week.

To assist UND summer camps and visitors, Larson said there will be signs showing safe routes around campus on the north and south sides of University Avenue, using Wilkerson Commons as the start and end point. In addition, a pedestrian path will be open near Harvard Street, which will enable those who park on the north side of University Avenue to enter the campus.

“It’s a short construction season up here, so we have to do a lot of work in a short time,” Larson noted. “Our goal is to have the University Avenue roadway reopened to traffic prior to move-in weekend in August.”

Chester Fritz Library

One of UND’s more iconic buildings is the Chester Fritz Library, in the heart of campus. Above is an architectural rendering of what the library’s interior and what the entrance will look like in the future. The project is underway and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2020. Image courtesy of ICON Architects.

Buildings and Infrastructure

Chester Fritz Library renovation – The project is underway and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2020. “We’ve added deferred maintenance funding to replace the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system and to install a sprinkler system,” Larson said. “That caused a big change to our initial plans, but in the end, it’s a huge win for the library to receive all these upgrades at one time. It’s much more economical when we have a contractor in place doing a capital project to complete the deferred maintenance items – as much as the budget will allow.” Some wings or floors of the library will be closed during the summer, but the plan is to reopen space for the fall semester.

Memorial Union demolition and construction – Demolition of the current Memorial Union will begin in early July. The new Memorial Union is expected to be finished in the late spring or early summer of 2021. “We’ll spend about six weeks after graduation finishing up the relocation of the occupants and the contents of the building,” Larson said. When completed, he said the new design will be significantly improved and better than the current facility.

Steam Plant

Many don’t know it because it’s cleverly hidden behind the UND Facilities building, but site preparation is well underway at the future location of UND’s new steam plant. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Steam plant and associated pipeline infrastructure – Construction south of the Facilities Building on Campus Road has begun and is currently ahead of schedule. “We would like to see the plant go operational next spring,” Larson said. “That would enable us to take down the existing steam plant.” The process of laying pipeline to connect the new steam plant to the existing infrastructure has begun in the Chester Fritz Auditorium parking lot and will occur throughout other portions of campus, resulting in road closures. “This will be fairly disruptive work, but we’re trying to do as much of it as we can this summer to minimize the impact,” Larson said.

Gershman Center Construction – The historic renovation of the original UND president’s house is underway and is expected to be completed by late summer or early fall. “On the main floor, we’ll recreate some of the spaces originally built in the early 1900s,” Larson said. “The basement and upper floors will include a student lounge, quiet study areas, conference rooms and a small gathering location. There’s going to be a patio out back with a fireplace and a number of great amenities. It’s going to be an amazing project.”

Below are maps of ongoing and planned construction projects.

Map 1

North 42nd Street to the English Coulee.


Map 2

English Coulee to North Columbia Road.

Street reconstruction

The reconstruction of University Avenue has begun, which is also timed to coincide with the building renovation and construction projects along the street. As Larson explains, “We need to improve pedestrian connections to those buildings, as well as lay out proper bus stop locations. All these capital projects feed into the design for University Avenue to make certain that our campus works together.”

University Avenue is currently closed between Harvard and Princeton streets. However, after commencement this week, University will be closed from Columbia Road to just west of the English Coulee bridge throughout much of the summer for a full reconstruction project by the city of Grand Forks. Larson noted that other “light touch” improvements will be incorporated into the University Avenue project west of English Coulee all the way to 42nd Street.

“There will be new pedestrian lighting, new landscaping, irrigation, sidewalks, raised medians, controlled pedestrian crossings and a four-way, signalized intersection at Oxford and Centennial,” Larson said. “This will really help to control traffic. A lot of these updates are being done to improve pedestrian safety for the people who cross University Avenue to get to and from our campus. It will look much nicer, too. It’s going to be a suitable road for our beautiful campus.”

Larson said the changes are based on an engineer’s study of campus traffic. “He looked at pedestrian and vehicular travel routes and identified all the conflict points we currently have at the university,” Larson noted. “We’ve taken that data and used it to design the roadway upgrades to improve pedestrian flow across the university, but also to make it much safer.”

Other changes along University Avenue will include:

  • The realignment of Yale Drive.
  • Removal of the loop drive in front of University Place.
  • Removal of the Cornell connection to University Avenue.
  • Removal of the Tulane Street and Tulane Court connections to University Avenue.
  • Adding a new Campus Road connection to University Avenue between Odegaard and Clifford halls.
  • Opening west Centennial Road for two-way traffic and aligning it with a new intersection and traffic signal at Oxford Street. East Centennial road will be closed to service and emergency vehicles only.

For drivers, Larson said the most noticeable change will likely be the new traffic lights on University Avenue at the intersection of Oxford and Centennial. The two north-south streets will be realigned to directly connect near the Gershman Center.

“There will be an all-way stop when students need to cross that intersection,” Larson said. “It’s called a scatter crossing. All four traffic lights will go red so students can cross through the entire intersection safely. It’s timed to align with class schedules. There’s also a push-to-cross button to stop traffic.”

The raised medians down the center of University Avenue are intended to improve safety. “You won’t be able to casually jay walk across University anymore,” Larson stated. “You’ll essentially be forced to use the designated crossing locations.”

Larson said drivers on campus will be able to take a larger loop around campus by following a route on west Centennial Drive to Campus Road and then to Cornell Street by the Hyslop Sports Center. He said closing off east Centennial to regular traffic will improve safety for students crossing the street between classes.


The summer construction season at UND includes several projects intended to relieve some of the parking crunch around campus.

The parking lot south of Gustafson Hall will be closed for reconstruction following graduation. This includes the closure of Davis Drive, the street between Gustafson and the North Dakota Museum of Art. Larson said improved sidewalk connections will be installed, in addition to safety lighting, landscaping and beautification.

The large parking lot near the former Chandler Hall will be closed after students move out of Johnstone, Fulton and Smith halls in mid-May. “That will be a full reconstruction, including new sidewalk connections, pedestrian lighting and landscaping,” Larson said. “It’s going to be a very nice parking lot and will provide additional parking near the campus core.”

After the old steam plant on Campus Road is demolished, Larson said the space will be used to add more parking on the south side of campus.

Larson recognizes that all these construction projects taking place on campus over the summer will create inconvenience and delays for both pedestrians and drivers. “These can be difficult times for a lot of people, but these are great projects that are really going to help UND and the greater Grand Forks area to draw more students and be more of an attraction in the area,” Larson said. “It’s a very exciting time; it’s just going to take some patience.”