Construction to progress over summer break


Story by Eric Christenson

You’ve probably heard the old Wisconsinite joke that the Badger State is known to have four seasons: “almost winter,” “winter,” “still winter” and “construction.”  As we start to wrap up “still winter” here at UW-Eau Claire, we’re starting to see the first few signs that “construction” is on its way.

The Eau Claire campus is going to go through some major structural changes this summer. Not since the 1960s has there been such a construction boom in this amount of time, said Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities.

“It’s not like there haven’t been projects that have occurred all along, but to have this much in this short of time period probably hasn’t occurred in several decades,” Rindo said.  “We’re going to be pretty busy.”

Major changes over the summer will include:

  • The completion of the new W.R. Davies Center by the end of June;
  • Beginning the new education building’s construction;
  • The installation of a steam line system, storm sewer lines and signal lines;
  • The demolition of the old Davies Center;
  • Reconstruction of the Haas Fine Arts Center parking lot;
  • The demolition of Campus School;
  • The Children’s Center moving to The Priory (formerly St. Bede’s monastery).

Assistant Director for New Student Orientation and Student Transitions Julia Diggins said that incoming freshmen orientation students’ experience will be mostly the same, despite campus being ripped up.

“Obviously there are challenges with not having the same space that we normally have,” Diggins said. “I don’t see major issues mostly because we will be with them when they need to get places.”

Diggins also said the orientation assistants are hoping to reference the construction when introducing the campus to new students.

“We’re going to use it,” Diggins said.  “I don’t think we’re trying to hide anything.  Instead we’re saying, ‘Wow, look at this.  You’re going to be the first people to use the new Davies Center.’  We’ll get to say, ‘What a cool time to get to come to Eau Claire.’”

For part of the summer, Rindo said Garfield Avenue will have a trench across it for the steam line installation, so the road will be closed.  However, the hill will remain open this summer for pedestrian traffic.

Most of the campus mall will be roped off during construction of the new education building for the better part of the next year and a half, Rindo said, but the sidewalk near Schofield Hall — one of the few ways through campus — will be widened to accommodate more foot traffic.

The most “in-your-face” project will be the construction of the new education building, which will put much of the construction in the middle of the campus mall.  Rindo said it won’t be easy, but it’s necessary.

“You can be disrupted a lot at once, or you can be disrupted a little for a long period of time, so we decided we really needed that education building,” he said.  “The campus has not been well-served by Brewer Hall and Campus School for many, many years.  That needed to get done.”

Rindo said that after the dust has settled on these large projects, Eau Claire won’t stop there.  The university’s 20-year Master Plan has construction work on Garfield Avenue along the riverfront, the footbridge and a new residence hall on upper campus next in line.  Rindo said we could see these projects come to fruition in the 2013-2015 biennium.

Until then, it could be tricky maneuvering around the construction, but Rindo said Eau Claire will be better for it.

“It’s inconvenient, it’s going to cause a lot of disruption,” he said, “But in the end, it’s going to be such an improvement for the campus and the way that we live and the way that we learn.”