MSU President's Newspaper Column

May 28, 2022

 Life safety is a top priority in proposed Old Main renovation project

Interim Vice President for Business Affairs Steve Bensen and I met with the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) Budget and Finance Committee last week, on May 19. At this meeting representatives of all North Dakota University System institutions were able to discuss their institution’s facility master plans and share their funding priorities.

We have determined that Mayville State University’s priority capital funding project request for the 2023-25 biennium is the renovation of Old Main. Old Main is the iconic face of Mayville State University. The four-story 55,000 sq. ft. building, constructed in two phases in 1890 and 1905, is the original building on the Mayville State campus. Old Main has been a prominent structure, serving the campus and community for decades. Old Main is a multifunctional building and is home to campus administration and student services offices, faculty and classroom space for two academic divisions, the mailroom, a telecommunication room, and the historic Old Main Theatre.

Old Main is a valuable, structurally sound campus asset that has had very little in the way of substantive improvements in the last 50 years. The renovation will enhance functionality and preserve a very significant campus asset, and address the most significant accumulated deferred maintenance on the Mayville State campus.

A top priority with the renovation is making life safety improvements. The project includes replacing fire alarms and adding a life safety notification system and install new automatic fire suppression system. Access and exiting for the theatre will be improved to meet current code requirements. Hazardous materials like asbestos and lead paint will be removed. Dead-end corridor safety concerns will be rectified. Video surveillance will be upgraded and door security will be added.

Consistent with a 120-year-old building, deferred maintenance items that would be addressed in the proposed renovation project include installation of new windows, exterior wall insulation, and attic insulation. The deteriorating and cracking foundation will be repaired and the exterior brick will be re-painted. Exterior soffit and fascia will be replaced and repaired. The mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, deteriorated building plumbing system (including waste and water supply lines), and obsolete electrical power and lighting systems will be gutted and replaced.

In the area of functional operational and learning improvements new technology, data, and communication systems will be provided. The lower-level floor in the west wing will be raised to create more efficient building space and reduce ADA concerns. Administrative, student services, and faculty offices and classrooms will be reorganized to provide improved visibility, access, and student-to-student and student-to-faculty interaction. Reconfiguration of interior circulation and stairway access will improve utilization, access, and life safety for offices and classrooms.

A new four-story 10,500 sq. ft. addition will be constructed on the east end of the building to address ADA compliance by providing accessible restroom facilities on each floor and a passenger/freight elevator to serve all building levels. A new staircase located in the addition will provide an approved egress from the theatre, solving the fire hazard problem associated with the existing wide double staircase. New building mechanical systems and equipment will be located in the addition.

The project design/construction will take about 36 months, with a target construction completion in approximately June of 2026. Total budgeted cost of the project is $39,649,100. Now that the project has been presented to the SBHE Budget and Finance Committee, it will go to the full SBHE for review and approval, with the ultimate goal of the project going forward for legislative consideration and state funding support.

We know this is a big ask, but we also know how very important it is for our university, our community, and our region. Mayville State University fills an important niche in North Dakota by serving students who prefer and also thrive in the small town environment where people care about one another and go above and beyond to help. We are doing the right things, not only for our students, but also for our stakeholders. Our students, faculty, and staff deserve to learn and work in a safe and pleasant environment. We owe the assurances of life safety to those we serve.