Building projects could reshape UWM’s main campus over next five years

UWM’s main physical campus could look dramatically different in the next five years if several buildings and facilities projects move forward on schedule.

Robin Van Harpen and Melissa Spadanuda gave Board of Regents members an overview of UWM’s new construction, demolition and renovation projects that are either underway or planned for the Student Union and both the Northwest and Southwest Quads to make room for more modern STEM facilities.

The new chemistry building, which broke ground earlier this year, is slated for completion in fall 2024. The new building will house classes for the 2,400 students who take chemistry each year and also classrooms for other science students.

“The new building will literally and figuratively serve as a gateway to the sciences at UWM,” Van Harpen, UWM senior vice chancellor for finance and administrative affairs, said at Thursday’s meeting of the UW System Board of Regents’ Capital Planning and Budget  committee. “Every new student and their parents who visit UWM through the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center will be able to see the adjacent new chemistry building and visit it.”

Good facilities help recruitment

Facilities make a difference in recruiting students interested in STEM and retaining faculty, Van Harpen said.

This artist’s rendering of the new chemistry building show the view from the north. The building at left is the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex. (Kahler Slater)

“We know of many cases where we have lost students to institutions with new and modern facilities, especially in STEM and health fields,” she said. “Students are attracted to updated facilities because they can better support interactive learning and the skills that today’s employers need.”

She also gave committee members a preview of renovations to the Union that are underway and scheduled for completion in the fall of 2023.

The project was scaled down from renovation of the entire building to a $40 million refurbishing that addresses structural issues while incorporating improvements that will open the interior to more daylight, which will make the space more welcoming.

In the Northwest Quad, plans are underway to renovate two of the buildings in the old Columbia Hospital complex to house a Nursing Simulation Center, the Student Health Services and the School of Information Studies, said Spadanuda, associate vice chancellor for facilities and management.

The Nursing Simulation Center will expand UWM students’ opportunities for clinical instruction, which are currently limited by the number of opportunities at external clinical sites. It will be completed this summer.

High demand for health sciences

Further out, plans call for a third building in the Northwest Quad to be renovated for the College of Health Sciences. This renovation will consolidate Health Sciences into a single location.

The demand for UWM Health Sciences programs is high and current enrollment numbers are constrained by existing facilities, said Spadanuda.

A high-priority capital project that UWM planners hope to have added to the 2023-25 budget is an engineering and neuroscience building complex.

The current psychology buildings were not designed for the space needs of the neuroscience program, said Van Harpen. “So the idea is to move the program over and combine it with facilities needs at the College of Engineering & Applied Science so that neuroscience would then be located in the STEM quadrant of campus.”

The regents had already approved planning funds for the project, but it was removed from last year’s state budget by the governor’s office.

If approved, the plan would unfold over two biennial budgets and include:

  • The relocation of the planetarium
  • Demolition of the existing physics building
  • Construction of a new interdisciplinary building that will house additional space for engineering and be the home of for neuroscience program.
  • Renovation of existing spaces in the EMS building, including consolidating three separate machine shops into a single shared shop.

Building A of the Northwest Quad and the old chemistry building are also slated for demolition.

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