$917M building boom in full swing on Michigan campuses

Posted on June 16, 2016

Grass and trees now grow where a new residence hall will stand at Oakland University. Ground was broken last week and completion is expected by 2018.

The new residence hall — which will add 750 beds to the campus housing stock — is just the start  of an ambitious plan for future construction at the school. A master plan unveiled at a recent board of trustees meeting shows a plethora of new buildings, including the possibility of a hotel/conference center on the campus of the fast-growing university near Rochester.

But Oakland isn’t the only university expanding its physical footprint. With the bulk of students gone for the summer, construction season is in full swing on Michigan’s public university campuses.

Libraries, dining halls, residence halls and classroom buildings are all going up all over the state.

All the construction comes with a big price tag. If you add up the single biggest projects at each of Michigan’s public universities, the cost totals more than $915 million.

The money comes from a variety of sources — state aid, tuition, housing rent paid by students and donations.

“I’m torn,” said Ted Myers, 56, of Novi. He has a son who is a senior at Oakland University, a daughter who is a sophomore at Western Michigan University and a son who is starting as a freshman at Michigan State University in the fall.

“I see tuition bills and housing bills going up and I think the universities are spending too much, but then I go visit my kids and see how it helps them and I like it.”

Library downsizing

A generation ago, a research project meant a trip to the library, flipping through card catalogs and browsing the stacks for the perfect book or academic journal.

No more.

Now it’s a few keystrokes into Google.

That change is why Saginaw Valley State University is spending $12 million to redo Zhanow Library.

“We are downsizing the number of volumes we will house in our library; we are part of a collaborative with other universities in Michigan to ensure our students and faculty can access those materials from other libraries, if needed,” Saginaw Valley spokesman J.J. Boehm told the Free Press in an e-mail.

“Our students have told us that they want more flexible study spaces on campus. The renovation project will address this.

“The renovation also will centralize academic support services, such as tutoring centers, in the library. We have done some of this under the library’s current configuration and we have seen a significant increase in students using our tutoring centers, as a result, but we cannot fully achieve this goal, given the library’s current space constraints.

“Ultimately, this project is intended to provide the best access to a wide range of research materials and academic support functions. We have received a great deal of input from students, faculty and staff during the planning process. Once complete, we expect our library will better serve our campus community.”

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University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Biological Science Building $261,000,000
Michigan State University 1855 Place residence hall construction $156,000,000
Central Michigan University Biosciences Building $95,000,000
Northern Michigan University Residence hall replacements $80,000,000
Oakland University South Residence Hall $78,000,000
University of Michigan – Dearborn Science building $51,000,000
Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business $50,000,000
Grand Valley State University Holton-Hooker Learning and Living Center $37,000,000
Western Michigan University Valley Dining Center $36,000,000
Ferris State University New residence hall $28,150,000
Michigan Tech Daniell Heights Maintenance $13,600,000
Lake Superior State University R.W. Considine Hall $13,500,000
Saginaw Valley State University Zhanow Library $12,000,000
Eastern Michigan University Wise Hall renovations $6,400,000
Total $917,650,000


The biggest project under way in the state is the Biological Science Building at U-M. The 300,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed in 2018.

Other notable projects under way include the construction of the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University in Midtown Detroit and the 1855 Place residence hall construction at Michigan State University.

The dining facility under construction at Western Michigan will feature something for everyone. It will have nine distinct food places, “allowing guests to select from Asian cuisine, home-style classics, pizza or pasta choices, Latin dishes, deli sandwiches and wraps, breakfast fare, a full grill menu, a salad bar that will include cut fresh fruit selections, and a full dessert station that will specialize in crepes,” the school’s website says in its description. It will serve three residential halls.

OU overcrowded

For the past year, a committee has been studying Oakland University’s current space and future needs.

The findings? Oakland is already overcrowded. It has about 1.8 million square feet of space. It needs about 2.3 million now and in coming years, that will swell to 3 million square feet, the committee said.

The school needs more housing, more parking and more classrooms.

But there’s good news, there’s plenty of room in the academic central core of the campus in Auburn Hills and Rochester Hills to add the needed facilities, especially if the university is creative in its use of space, the master plan adopted by the board last Monday shows.

The goal is to make all the spaces multiuse, with more than half the projected new buildings having classrooms in it.

OU junior Will Thomas, 22, of Port Huron said he’s excited by it.

“It would be a completely different campus,” he said. “I just hope they don’t hike the cost too much to pay for it all.”