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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

SIDEBAR: Retrofit Plans Split in Two

Plans for the renovation of space left over by moves to the Campus Center, dubbed “retrofit,” will be split into two parts, which will include some projects from the original plans as the rest is shifted over under the heading of “space management,” according to university officials.

In the works since 1999, retrofit was supposed to be partly funded by unspent monies of around $6 to $7 million from the construction of the $75 million dollar Campus Center, which opened last spring. The rest of the retrofit was going to be paid for through Commonwealth contributions to the campus and what the campus could raise on its own, which in recent years, has not been much.

But the Campus Center needed another million, and now much of the focus is turning towards halting the rapid deterioration of the campus’ upper and lower level infrastructure. The campus also recently borrowed $40 million for the construction of a new garage.

“Our dollars are so few and scarce that we need to be very strategic about their use and investment,” said Ellen O’Connor, vice chancellor of administration and finance. “The rule of thumb that we’re using is how can we spend the money to benefit the most people, and without apple-polishing, the most important people, mainly, the faculty and students.”

Retrofit will now include the Geographic Information Science (GIS) laboratory’s moving to the Science Center’s third floor, the relocation of the Nursing and Health Sciences lab to the second floor of the Science Center, the renovation of the McCormack Theatre space, and the upgrading of instructional space with improved furniture and lighting, along with more technological capability.

“In dividing it into two, it isn’t to drive people crazy with more paper and more forms or whatever. One of the real problems with the retrofit is that a lot of the thinking and the planning and the requesting was done in 1999 and 2000,” O’Connor said. “We’ve got new deans, we’ve got new department chairs, we’ve got new thinking. And I don’t want to just be pursuing a 1999 dream. I say that respectfully. I’m sorry that in 1999 they didn’t have the money to do everything. But we’re here in 2004, so we’ve got to do what’s responsible in 2004.”

With the finishing off of those projects, “we are going to say we have concluded the retrofit effort,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor met with senior staff last week to discuss the issue, and set up a meeting for December 20 with senior administrators on a capital planning and space management process. The administration will be asking the campus to update what it had previously wanted in retrofit. “If this is still what you want to do, let us know,” O’Connor said. “If it isn’t, update it.”

Space management is most likely going to be self-financed or taking the space “as is,” with some new painting, new carpeting, and the lighting, she said. “But if you need half a million dollars, a million dollars, a million and a half dollars, we’ve got to put you through the capital planning process,” she said.

In the past, O’Connor said, the campus tilted towards a facilities-driven capital planning process. Some of that is because dollars have been so short, only the most basic things could be done, she said. But she said she wants to move to a more systematic way of capital planning.

“UMass Boston ought to have an annual capital planning process,” she said.