Board of Trustees Approves Campus Master Plan

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:


10. Relocation of Loras Hall. The building (38,580 square feet) would be moved 100 feet to the west and renovated, allowing a larger footprint for a new science and engineering building; 11. New science and engineering building. 137,000 square feet; 12. New South Campus boilers. In basement of Facilities and Design Center; 13. Anderson Parking Facility addition. 300 parking spaces on two additional levels; 14. Brady Education Center renovation. 40,000 square feet.

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.


Campus Master Plan fine arts and residence

6. New arts building. East block, facing Summit: 65,000 new square feet and 290 underground parking spaces (including 120 below two new Grand Avenue residences). Would replace the Summit Avenue Classroom Building, the 2110 Summit duplex and the office buildings at 30 Finn and 32 Finn; 7. New Grand apartment residences with first-floor retail space. East block: 112 beds on four floors and 13,000 square feet of retail on ground floor; 8. New Grand apartment residence. East block: 140 beds on five floors; 9. 2171-2175 Grand renovation. West block: 18,000 square feet now used for 34 residence hall beds would be renovated for administrative use.


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.

Campus master plan residence halls

1. New residence hall. 416 suite beds and 70 underground parking spaces. Would replace John Paul II Residence Hall (141 beds) for net of 275 beds; 2. Ireland Residence Hall renovation. 112 apartment-style beds (203 beds lost because of the renovation); 3. Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas addition. 6,000 square feet for pre-function space, kitchen, bride and groom rooms, plus air conditioning; 4. New residence hall. 256 beds and 190 underground parking spaces. Would replace Faculty Residence; 5. Murray-Herrick Campus Center renovation. 16,000 square feet now used for 72 resident beds would be renovated for academic use.


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.


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27 Responses

  1. Outspoken student

    Still going to have to criticize that fact that Ireland is not being torn down. I’m sorry but no one is going to miss a roach and mouse infested building that is literally falling apart. I’m still astonished how a health inspector has not come by to seen this?!?! Yet they got rid of all of our wooden door stops in the apartment buildings because the fire marshall said they were a hazard… priorities? Anyway, proud that UST is moving this direction. Wish I could attend ust 10 years down the road instead of now, cuz it’s still not it’s best. Also may i suggest that we spend more money/time on faulty training (I know, more admin than physical change) but for real, nobody is on the same page here, it drives us students NUTS. Last comment: spend money on more WIFI routers! Otherwise I’ll forward all my phone bills for data overages from using my hotspot to UST. :)

    All in all,
    HATS OFF ust. This is going to be a heck of a great school in 10 years time.

  2. JN

    As a Commuter Student for all four years I’m not happy with this plan. I’m not a rich student and just barely could attend this school. I live at home and work full time in order to afford this school. My last year tuition went up by $4000 forcing to take an extra loan for this year, and barely being able to graduate. Guess that came from “re-branding.” Where’s the plan to keep this school affordable for 4 year-degree students? Where’s the plan for parking for OFF-Campus Students? Putting in more on campus housing is high hopes for more rich kids to live on campus or kids that want an extra $10,000 in debt a year so the school can gain more revenue. This plan needs some great reconsideration.

  3. Outside Observer

    Okay, new buildings are nice, but we need to remember that we are a CATHOLIC university and so we need to live that out. Is the university ever going to repair and maybe put in new Stations of the Cross by SPS? I know a few of them are missing and the majority are broken and they’re hidden in the trees. Also, I think putting in a Rosary Walk to our Blessed Mother would be really neat in the Marian Shrine behind the UST Chapel. I think we have kind of overlooked our identity in this plan. Hence, when this ten year plan is completed we need to go back and boost our Catholicism and not be ashamed of who we really are.

    • Outside observer reply

      I agree in this statement, however it is said UST is moving to be a Christian and religion-inclusive university as it moves forward with its brand identity. Therefore I think there is a focus more on what is NEEDED and not what would just be nice to have,

  4. Niki Olson

    As a parent of an interested fall 2017 student, our biggest hold back on that deciding factor is the living situation. The campus is beautiful, but as soon as you go into the dorms it turned us off. I guess we expected better living situations for the cost. Update the dorms and bathrooms

    • UST parent

      My daughter is a sophomore at UST. I think that living in older dorms with bathrooms at the end of the hall (Brady, Dowling and maybe others) fosters meeting people and helps build relationships, which is so important early in a freshman’s year. She is so glad to have lived in that crummy “dump” (my words, not hers) and met friends while brushing her teeth or washing her hands down the hall. Competitive pressure probably requires that UST build dorms with more amenities. But, I think that something will be lost with a move to apartment-style dorms that don’t require frequent interactions with other students outside the suite. Niki — I hope that outdated freshman dorms don’t deter your student from coming to UST. It really ends up not being a big deal at all.

      • Thomas Aquinas

        It really depends on a person’s perspective. I, being a real-life germophobe (OCD, thank you very much), would rather sleep in a tent than live in one of those dorms.

      • Aaron Cornelius

        As a former resident of cretin hall, circa the late 1800’s, I disagree entirely. It is not outrageous to expect a quality, clean, dorm hall that is fixed appropriately when you are paying about 800/month to sleep in a dorm. Yes, I agree, it is good to get the social experience of living in a dorm. However, I have experienced first hand the type of terrible show that the res life director puts on. Mice in Ireland? Tells everyone to keep their food off the floor. Pipes burst in cretin? No new ceiling. Roaches in dowling? Maybe they should run a vacuum once in a while. For real, that guy needs to be fired immediately. The university needs to renovate their existing buildings as well as build new ones. You should not feel wrong about demanding reasonable service when you pay unreasonably high prices

  5. BD

    No mention of scholarship endowment, a real source of help for students. Too Bad! And the expansion at the Chapel only sounds like a way to accommodate more weddings, aka more revenue. With some real concern that the Catholic character of the University is taking a back seat, I would like to see that addressed as well.

  6. Concerned

    What about the Minneapolis Campus; what improvements can we expect? Didn’t the masters of the plan come up with a solution to the MacPhail building? Without addressing the needs in Minneapolis, this plan is short-sighted.

    • Curious

      I was surprised by this, too. Why was the Minneapolis campus not included in this planning?

      • Sean Ryan

        It was supposed to be per the first meeting held last year. I specifically mentioned the McPhail building.

    • Thomas Aquinas

      They spent all of the money that would’ve gone towards the Minneapolis campus on ‘rebranding’. New IDs, website updates, and whatnot. Oh, yeah, they repainted those ugly Gillig Phantom buses, too! $$$

    • Outside observer reply

      What about the minnepolis campus needs updating exactly? besides the fact that its built like a maze

  7. Patrice Werner

    Hooray! You kept the green space at the corner of Mississippi River Boulevard and Goodrich Avenue. Thank you so much.

  8. Alumnus

    As a recent alumnus of St. Thomas and former choir member, I am glad that a new fine arts building is in the plans. Unfortunately, these are a lot of changes in the next ten years and it is going to cost a lot of money. This plan will only increase tuition and will make it way more difficult for non-rich families to attend St. Thomas. As an individual who has mountains of student loans after graduating, it was already hard enough to attend St. Thomas. This plan will only limit the amount of students who attend and likewise the already large stereotype of students will continue to grow. The dip in enrollment the past few years has come about because of all these changes – including the rebranding. With the recent rebranding and all of these changes, I believe the school is losing its true value and essence of what it used to be, a Catholic institution that upheld what they truly believed was important. Good luck getting all this passed and find the funding other than increasing tuition – that’s all I ask.

  9. Beverly Ferguson

    There is a cap on UST enrollment and I hope this is being checked by our council rep. Russ Stark.
    Why don’t you expand at other sites? Lots of students in the south areas of Metro.

    • Amy Gage

      Good question, Bev. The St. Paul enrollment cap in the 2004 Conditional Use Permit is 8,750 students, and we have to notify the city when we hit 8,000. Our current undergraduate enrollment is 6,111, down 2.6 percent from a year ago. — Amy Gage (neighborhood liaison)

    • Matt Steele

      Because this is a residential liberal arts college. Lots of students in the south areas of the metro would be … moving to St. Paul to attend St. Thomas. Just as I moved from the south metro to attend St. John’s. Much of the value of a liberal arts college comes from the residential experience.

  10. Rebecca Androli

    FINALLY a new building for the Arts! This has been sorely needed for decades.

  11. Parent

    In response to this comment “Several neighbors questioned so much additional parking and encouraged St. Thomas to offer more incentives, such as steeply discounted Metro Transit passes”

    The problem won’t be solved by discounting Metro Transit Passes unless the Metro Transit System develops accessibility by bus or light rail to the suburbs. I have two students at St. Thomas who wish they could take Metro Transit to campus but can’t without three bus transfers and a two hour commute to and from Burnsville. Even then it is limited service between 6 am to 6 pm and no weekends. It would help if there was a direct bus to MOA which is a major hub for other buses and light rail.

    • Matt Steele

      I think that speaks much more to the transit accessibility of neighborhoods in Burnsville than the transit accessibility of the St. Thomas area.

      But yes, this area of St. Paul is ripe for more transit service, especially when it becomes more dense. One of the biggest gains would be Arterial BRT on Lake Street and Marshall to Snelling, serving the UST St. Paul campus, as proposed by the Arterial Corridors Transitway Study:

    • Thomas Aquinas

      A one-way trip to/from the St. Paul campus from the Burnsville transit center is approximately 65 minutes with a single transfer. Check out routes 460 and 134.

  12. S

    If they want more students to live on campus, they should make it cheaper to do so rather than to significantly increase tuition (which will inevitably happen with this plan). The further they increase the cost of tuition, the more difficult it will be for non-privileged students to attend and to continue attending this university. It seems as though they want to eliminate poorer students from this college and only bring in richer students, and this new plan which is being proposed is going to support this concept. I am hoping students will protest against this. If this plan goes through, I can only advocate for the school to find other means of funding than drastically increasing tuition, which is personally my greatest fear.

    • Outside observer reply

      In the article, it specifically states that tuition dollars would NOT be used for this plan. Thus, there is no reason tuition should be increased, unless UST wants to deter students from attending, which seems counter intuitive since this plan is intended to up UST’s edge so it can compete with other schools that currently have more to offer.

  13. Matthew Wash

    This looks like an incredible plan and an amazing addition to not only the St. Thomas community, but the neighborhood at large. As an alumnus and former employee it brings me great pride to see St. Thomas taking such bold steps to facilitate improvements in their educational programs and quality of life for its constituents. If the university is able to make all these improvements for $300M that’s an outstanding deal.