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Bids for MU Fine Arts project over budget

Jan. 03, 2013 @ 11:09 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Bids for yet another of Marshall University's projects in its latest capital campaign came in over budget.

Bids were opened Thursday afternoon for the renovations of the former Stone & Thomas building on 3rd Avenue across from Pullman Square. The building will become home to many of the art and design programs in the College of Fine Arts.

The lowest of the seven bids, and the only one under $11 million, came from Neighborgall Construction at $10.873 million. Initial projections for the project were about $800,000 lower, said Ron May, director of Facilities Planning and Management.

Following the bid opening, May met with Ed Tucker, whose architectural firm did the design; Don Van Horn, dean of the College of Fine Arts; and Byron Clercx, director of the School of Art and Design; and a few others from the purchasing department.

"I'm not sure what $800,000 means in terms of what we take out," Van Horn said. "I can't say with confidence that $800,000 can be made up in fundraising."

The building and demolition work cost the university $1.15 million and was funded through the $52 million bond proceeds going toward several projects in the $114 million capital projects campaign. The renovations were initially projected at $11 million, with $9 million coming from the bond and $2 million from private donations. Another $1 million already has been spent on design and other upfront costs, May said.

With the high bids and other unexpected costs, Van Horn said the university will have to raise $4 million toward the project. He said more than $1 million has been raised and the university is well on its way toward $2 million.

That includes a $400,000 gift from the Huntington Municipal Development Authority last May. However, one of the unexpected costs to reinforce the steel structure of the building cost that much.

"What we want is to take a 100-year-old building and make sure it stands for at least another 100 years," Van Horn said, noting in the meeting that renovation work can end up being more expensive than building from the ground up.

He also mentioned in the meeting that programming could end up suffering, but he later clarified he meant some programs might have to stay in Smith Hall until additional funding can be secured.

"If part of the space can't be built out at the time that everything else can, then what we have to do is decide what we can perhaps keep on campus until such time as that space can be built out," Van Horn said. "But offerings within the department won't be cut. We'll have to make a decision on what makes sense to stay."

The building will have two staircases, one being refurbished and another added. The plans also call for two new elevators to replace the current freight elevator. The cost savings of building the second elevator shaft but not installing an elevator was briefly discussed. It would save a few hundred thousand dollars initially, but there was concern about not having a second elevator in the six-story building in case the other breaks down.

The designs still call for retail space on the first floor, but it will initially be built as shell space. The key, Van Horn said, is to have something which generates revenue for the university. He said last year that proceeds could go toward the building's operating expenses, though he and May said that is a decision for the administration to make.

May said he will seek final approval from Marshall President Stephen Kopp to move forward with the project, which could start by the end of the month. It is expected to take about 16 months, he said.

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