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Cali Owings, Published August 18 2013

NDSU's Minard Hall nears completion

FARGO – The start of a new school year at North Dakota State University also will signal the much-anticipated end of construction in one of the school’s largest academic buildings, Minard Hall.

In the middle of an $18 million renovation and addition, the north face of Minard Hall partially collapsed in 2009 and delayed the completion of the project by a year.

Though different sections of the building have been in use for the past two years, Facilities Management Director Mike Ellingson said students, staff and faculty will have full use of the building this fall.

“In another two weeks, when school starts, the building will be fully occupied and all classrooms will be fully utilized,” he said.

Until classes begin Aug. 26, they’ve got a to-do list of “finishing touches” throughout the building that now is home base for two colleges and seven academic departments.

The updated building, with sections dating back to 1901, 1918 and 1929, has a completely remodeled interior.

“It is modern, but there was history maintained.” Ellingson said.

They preserved some elements, like the existing metal work, and were able to refinish the tin ceiling.

The renovation and additions increased the building’s space by more than 20,000 square feet.

Several academic departments were displaced or moved around several times since construction started in the fall of 2009. Now that the dust is settling, faculty members can unpack for the first time in almost four years.

Faculty had a lot of input in the initial redesign of the building to create office, lab and collaborative spaces that would function well for their departments.

For Jim Council, chairman of the psychology department, it’s great to be in the space they’ve long-awaited.

“We’ve never had enough space before consolidated into one area,” Council said.

Now, the department lays claim to most of the building’s first floor and a large portion of the second floor.

After the collapse, “people really got scattered,” Council said.

“We didn’t ever take our stuff out of boxes because we knew we’d be moving again,” he said.

Now, many faculty members are busy setting up their labs and offices, and the department is finding permanent homes for its equipment – like a driving simulator.

Council said the best part about the end of their “three-and-a-half-year exile” is having a conference room in Minard Hall where the department can meet as a whole instead of reserving space in other buildings.

“We’re all together now, and that really counts for a lot,” he said.

Though the construction crews will soon be gone, the Minard Hall saga is far from over. There are still two open lawsuits related to the 2009 collapse.

Originally an $18 million project, the collapse has added more than $3 million, Ellingson said.

Dirt was excavated about 25 feet deep near the northwest corner of the building before the incident, exposing the building’s foundation, which likely contributed to the collapse.

The school is suing a group of five contractors for the costs associated with the incident.

That lawsuit is still in the discovery stage, said Daniel Hull, who’s representing NDSU and the State Board of Higher Education.

While Ellingson said the school has incurred more than $3 million in extra expenses because of the collapse, Hull said there’s not a dollar figure on the lawsuit yet.

The school is suing the contractors for all “damages caused to NDSU as a result of the collapse,” including physical damage and lost use of the space, he said.

The school also filed a lawsuit against the North Dakota State Fire and Tornado Fund, its insurance company, for denying its claim.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599