By Spencer Yeomans
Future expansion for the STEM program has been the goal of the University of Northwestern – St. Paul for the past several semesters. It started with the potential acquisition of a building from Boston Scientific, before switching to a different building from Smiths Medical. Now, in May of this year, Northwestern was able to secure a different facility, previously owned by a software company called Veritas. President Alan Cureton said, “Its got parking for 250 cars and 65,000 square feet. The building is well built, and it came with two massive generators that we can use in other parts of the campus.”
One of the favorable aspects of the building is its proximity to the campus. “It’s about an eight to 10 minute drive by car, depending on how long the stoplights are,” Cureton continued. “There’s no major intersection that we have to go through, and it’s three times closer to campus than the Boston Scientific building.” While transportation details haven’t been decided on yet, it’s likely that there will be a shuttle to bring students to and from this building.
As such, the building is just what Northwestern needed to relieve the pressure on the ever-expanding STEM program. “However, 65,000 square feet meets the needs of our engineering and science demands, but it doesn’t meet the needs for future growth…we have to find additional square footage somewhere else,” Cureton added.
Expanding the campus isn’t cheap, though, shown by the roughly $8.8 million cost of this most recent purchase. However, as Cureton explained, this option was less expensive than the alternative. He said, “It seems like a lot, but to buy and renovate is considerably more cost effective than building new, so that’s what we’re doing.” Northwestern is currently establishing a campaign effort to pay for the building.
Lately, parking has become more of an issue as well, which raises the question: why isn’t Northwestern seeking to expand parking within the main campus area? Cureton explained this, saying, “The parking ramp was built to sustain two additional levels. Each level at current dollars is around $6.5 million per level, so it’s more cost effective for us to buy a building with 250 spots at $8.8 million then it is to add 250 spots to a parking level at $6.5 million and not have a building.”
Northwestern sought an amendment to the Roseville Planned Unit Development (PUD) so that they could turn the interior of the building into classrooms and labs. The city council meeting where this amendment was proposed took place on Monday, Sept. 25, and it received overwhelming support from the audience. Mark Hamman is the co-owner of Pediatric Home Services, which provides services to medically fragile children, and he has hired many Northwestern graduates in the past. He said, “I am in support of any college or university that would like to bring in more nurse … I’m really hoping that you guys (the city council) will support Northwestern’s cause to add a bigger area for their students to come in.”
However, despite the support of the audience and Mayor Dan Roe, Northwestern lost the vote 3-2.