College remains committed to new Fine Arts Center

By David Hertz

Despite the dismal economic climate, Macalester plans to move forward with the renovation of the Fine Arts Center. The question now is where the money for the building will come from with overall giving to the college slowing.The total cost of the project will be about $70 million. About $55 million of the project’s budget is expected to come from construction costs, while “soft costs” like contractor fees and interior decoration compose the other $15 million.

“I wish the economy was better,” said Vice President of Advancement Tommy Bonner. “There wasn’t the interest or capacity for $70 million.”

Although many colleges are postponing new construction projects due to economic conditions, “We still want to move this project along,” Bonner said.

At the faculty meeting on Tuesday, President Brian Rosenberg said that while it might seem tempting to hold off on the project, if the school could find a way to get it done while other colleges cannot, it would be a good thing for Macalester.

Andy Overman, a Classics professor and faculty coordinator for the project, added at the meeting that Carleton and Williams had held off on projects, and that while completing the project will be tough, it is an opportunity for the college.

Because of the difficulties of fundraising during the recession, administrators plan to construct the building in phases, according to Bonner.

The construction process will ideally be completed in two phases, Bonner said, but “all things are on the table” due to the economic collapse.

Administrators hope to raise two-thirds of the cost of the project through fundraising and borrow money to cover the rest. In the two-phase plan, the first phase will cost about $39 million.

When construction will begin “depends on how ready the donors are to get behind the project in this economic climate,” Provost Kathleen Murray said. This has made the starting date for phase one of the project unclear.

According to Bonner, the college plans to raise $18-20 million before beginning the renovations. About $6 million have already been raised.

Bonner said he hoped to raise enough funds to begin the project within about 18 months of the completion of marketing materials for the Fine Arts Center and beginning to meet with major donors. The starting date for phase one given to contractors for cost estimate purposes was Fall 2010, Bonner said.

Murray and Bonner looked at two possible renderings of the building recently in Boston. Renderings of a renovated Fine Arts Center cost estimates for the project will be presented at the Mar. 6 Board of Trustees meeting.

The Board of Trustees will decide the scope of the first phase of construction at the March meeting, according to Bonner.

According to Mark Dickinson, Director of Facilities Services, contractors will supply cost estimates for renovating three different areas of the building; the art wing, the theater and dance wing, and the building core that connects the wings and music wing.

The estimates will help administrators decide which renovations fall in the first phase of construction and which are delayed.

Some cuts might be necessary after meeting with contractors and getting cost estimates, according to Dickinson. If the construction estimates are over budget, the most likely cuts would be using cheaper construction materials, Dickinson said.

Additonal reporting by Amy Ledig