Jones School fix-up now at $36.6 million

UA trustees OK Vol Walker Hall funds

— Trustees of the University of Arkansas System on Tuesday approved a request by Fayetteville campus officials to increase the maximum cost of the renovation and addition of Vol Walker Hall to $36.6 million.

Meeting via conference call, trustees authorized an additional $3.8 million for the Fay Jones School of Architecture project.

UA-Fayetteville Chancellor G. David Gearhart told trustees that nearly all of the additional funds will be spent on the planned 34,320-square-foot Steven L. Anderson Design Center, which will be added to the76-year-old hall.

When completed in 2013, the hall and its addition will house students in UA’s architecture and landscape architecture departments and its interior design program.

“We would not be able to accommodate all three [programs] without adding square footage to the project,” Gearhart said. “We think it’s an important thing to do. We want all three components together in one facility.”

The renovation of Vol Walker Hall is estimated at $19.8 million. Construction of the design center, now expected to cost nearly $16.8 million, is supportedby a $10 million gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation of Las Vegas.

Gearhart told trustees that campus leaders are considering a several options to make up for the additional $3.8 million, including additional fundraising or a tuition hike for architecture students.

The university charges a slightly higher base tuition rate for undergraduate architecture students: $205.38 per credit hour as opposed to $196.26 for most other students.

UA also charges a higher tuition rate for business, nursing and law students, Gearhart said.

Increasing the tuition would be a “worst-case scenario” and would be phased in over three years, Gearhart said.

“We’d like to be able to do this project without going there,” he said.

Trustees would have to approve the tuition increase.

Don Pederson, UA vice chancellor for finance and administration, said the original $13 million estimate for the design center was based upon a 25,000-square-foot floor plan. As the scope of the addition increased, construction cost estimates also rose, Pederson said.

“It came in higher, much higher than we expected,” he said. “The only way to reduce costs was to reduce the size of the addition.”

Gearhart said that was not an option, based upon the needs of the architecture school.

Trustees on Tuesday also approved UA’s recommendation to hire the Fayetteville architecture firm Miller Boskus Lack to design its new Information Technology Support Building.

The building will be located on Razorback Road, across from John McDonnell Field, where track and field meets are held.

The construction estimate for the technology support building is between $4 million and $5 million, depending on the building’s square footage, Pederson said. Campus planners project a minimum of 20,000 square feet and a maximum of 40,000 square feet.

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Northwest Arkansas, Pages 9 on 10/26/2011

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