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Ryan Johnson, Published May 25 2013

NDSU’s Minard Hall on track to reopen over summer

FARGO – A renovation and expansion project is wrapping up at North Dakota State University’s largest academic building, more than three years after it partially collapsed in the middle of the night.

Facilities Management Director Mike Ellingson said work at Minard Hall began in the fall of 2009, with the planned $18 million project to include a full renovation of the building with three sections dating back to 1901, 1918 and 1929. Two additions also were included in the plans to add more classroom and office space to the cramped building, and the project was slated to be completed in the fall of 2012.

But that changed when the northwest corner collapsed in the early morning hours of Dec. 27, 2009. A portion of the building’s foundation was exposed at the time, excavated 25 feet below ground level by the construction crew working on the expansion and renovation.

Ellingson said much of the construction on the building already is finished, and portions have been in use for years, while other areas that are newly renovated or built in two new additions are expected to open to students and faculty in the coming months.

“Our anticipation is we’ll be fully utilizing the building come fall semester,” he said.

NDSU General Counsel Chris Wilson said two lawsuits filed by the university after the 2009 collapse still are pending and currently are in discovery mode. More information was not available, other than a couple of new parties have been added to the lawsuits.

The wait is almost over

Ellingson said the main renovation and construction work on Minard Hall will stay within the original budget of $18 million. Once completed this summer, every part of the building that’s stood on the campus for more than a century will have been renovated and modernized.

But he said the university has incurred more than

$3 million in extra costs because of the collapse. Those expenses are being accounted for separately because they weren’t included in the original construction approval, he said.

Ellingson said the collapse also forced a “very sophisticated” redesign of a new addition to the north side – though students, faculty and the general public may not notice much of a difference.

“The way the original design was, there was going to be a basement and then three floors above that,” he said. “After doing further analysis, testing, consulting and all that, it was determined that the work that we needed to get done, it would be a little bit too expensive to keep that basement.”

The basement was mostly going to house mechanical items, he said. When it was scrapped from the plans, a crawlspace replaced it, and the mechanical elements had to be moved to a new rooftop unit.

Ellingson said the change didn’t affect the other three floors much. But air, power and steam now have to come in through the roof, which forced a “fairly substantial” redesign.

The addition opened for use early this spring, adding about 12,000 square feet to the facility.

Ellingson said another 10,000-square-foot addition to the west was one of the first areas to be completed and has been in use for more than two years.

The majority of the north section of the original building, dating back to 1918 and 1929, has been in use for several months. But he said work continues in some parts because the building had to stay open for classes.

“It’s been a little bit of a jigsaw puzzle,” he said.

Ellingson said the puzzle nearly is complete, and crews are putting the final touches on the renovated top two floors of the oldest part of the building dating back to 1901. That area should reopen for use in the next few weeks, he said, leaving just the bottom two floors of the very south section of the building that are expected to be finished up at the end of June.

Once done and occupied later this summer, the entire Minard Hall facility will add up to slightly less than 100,000 square feet of space – maintaining its title as NDSU’s largest academic building, and more than 20,000 square feet larger than when construction first began.

Ellingson said there’s plenty of buzz on campus for the work to be done, especially for some who moved out of the building in 2009 for what they thought would be a matter of months and have waited several years to get back.

“You can’t imagine how excited people are,” he said.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587