The St. Thomas Board of Trustees has approved a 10-year St. Paul campus master plan that identifies potential projects supporting the university’s mission and vision, including two new academic buildings, a chapel expansion, more student housing and more parking.
The board discussed the plan during a Physical Facilities Committee meeting on Wednesday and a plenary session on Thursday before giving unanimous approval. The plan was unveiled Sept. 26 and 27 at forums for faculty, staff, students and neighbors.
In approving the plan, the board did not favor any specific projects nor determine a timetable or sequencing for them. The board also emphasized it is not making a commitment that all of the projects will proceed because they will be dependent on fund-raising success and borrowing capacity.
St. Thomas developed the plan over the last 14 months with Hastings + Chivetta of St. Louis. The potential projects include a third science and engineering building on the south campus, an arts building on Summit Avenue west of McNeely Hall, an expansion of the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, four new residential buildings and additional parking spaces.
President Julie Sullivan told the board that she views the plan as a “land-use plan” as much as a “campus master plan. It is a holistic assessment of our needs so that when we are ready to pursue any one of these projects, the location decision will have been made in the context of all of our needs.”
Jim Gearen, chair of the board’s Physical Facilities Committee, views the plan “as a work in process,” and said the process needs to remain fluid and dynamic.
In his presentation to the board, Chris Chivetta, president of Hastings + Chivetta, said he was pleased the plan would allow St. Thomas to construct another science and engineering building while retaining Loras Hall by moving it 100 feet to the west. Constructed in 1894, Loras is the oldest building on campus and is in the West Summit Avenue Historic District.
Process began 14 months ago
Hastings + Chivetta began its work on the plan in September 2015, analyzing every square foot of space on the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses. The plan emanates from a strategic planning process that the university began three years ago.
“We quickly realized that we needed more space for our growing engineering and science programs,” Sullivan told the Sept. 27 community forum, and she said it is equally important to provide a new building for our music and art history programs and the creativity and innovation they catalyze across all of our disciplines. “We also want more students living on campus and more parking.”
The university sought input throughout the process from faculty, staff, students, alumni and neighbors. The September community forum was the third for neighbors, more than 80 of whom attended a three-hour workshop last April to suggest how St. Thomas might use open space, where new buildings could be constructed and what buildings might be renovated or demolished.
In developing the plan, St. Thomas chose to preserve most of its existing green space, including the area along Mississippi River Boulevard and Goodrich Avenue. Neighbors had encouraged St. Thomas to preserve that south campus green space, which many consider a community park.
Tuition dollars would not be used to construct new buildings. Fund-raising would occur for the academic buildings, and funds borrowed for housing and parking would be paid off through revenue streams, such as room and parking fees.
The plan can be viewed on large poster boards in the foyer of O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library in St. Paul and in Keffer Library in Opus Hall on the Minneapolis campus. Here are highlights of the plan:
Academic and administrative space
A third building would be constructed as part of the Frey Science and Engineering Center and would be located on Lot M, west of O’Shaughnessy Science Hall, and on the site of Loras. Moving Loras would provide a larger footprint for the new building and allow St. Thomas to renovate the building, strengthen its foundation and add a new heating and cooling system under the hall.
The arts building would be located on Summit Avenue between McNeely Hall and Finn Street. The building would require the demolition of the Summit Avenue Classroom Building, a duplex used for undergraduate housing, and the 30 and 32 Finn buildings, which are used for institutional advancement staff.
St. Thomas has not done any planning for the two new academic buildings, nor has it raised any funds for them.
Other building projects include a small addition to the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas; conversion of residential space to administrative space in Murray-Herrick Campus Center; conversion of the 2171-2175 Grand apartments for administrative space; new south campus boilers and renovation of Brady Education Center.
The plan identifies four new residential buildings and the renovation of Ireland Residence Hall. The projects would add 441 beds, or 17 percent, to the existing housing stock of 2,630 beds.
The new residence halls (416 and 256 beds) on the north campus would replace John Paul II Residence Hall (141 beds) and the Faculty Residence near Cleveland.
In addition, two apartment buildings would be constructed on Grand, one with 112 beds and the other with 140. The only two buildings on that block today – an apartment building at 2085 Grand and a house at 2109 Grand – would be demolished.
A special feature on that block could be up to 13,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the apartment building closest to Cleveland. Neighbors have encouraged St. Thomas to include retail space in the building. No decisions have been made on what kinds of shops or restaurants might be in the building, and St. Thomas has committed to conduct a neighborhood and campus survey.
The university’s parking inventory would increase by 626 spaces (24 percent) if all of the projects identified in the plan are constructed.
More than half of the parking would be under five new buildings: the residence hall on the John Paul II site (70 spaces), the residence hall on the Faculty Residence site (198 spaces), the arts building (170 spaces) and two apartment residences on Summit and Grand (60 spaces each).
An additional 300 spaces would be created if St. Thomas added two levels to the Anderson Parking Facility at Grand and Cretin.