“I don't think there should be a sticker shock here,” said Chief Operating Officer Charlie Lane.
The University of Florida has big plans.
The university’s capital improvement plans include a new honors college, athletic dorms, a new student health facility, academic buildings, and a landscaping plan that would change the face of the university.
The plans coincide with UF’s goal to become top-5 public university. A top-5 university has top-5 facilities and a top-5 campus, according to UF administrators. But getting there will be costly.
The preliminary cost to transform the university, in terms of facilities and campus look and feel, to UF’s top-5 standards is projected at about $2.2 billion over five to 10 years.
Before the plan was presented to the UF Board of Trustees, President Kent Fuchs said it had the “full endorsement of the senior leadership,” but there wasn’t enough money in the bank to make it happen overnight.
“We don’t have the resources right now to make it happen,” Fuchs said. “We have to find the resources to make it possible.”
First on the plan is to address the university’s housing situation. UF’s housing plan puts emphasis on the importance of creating a world-class honors college, while also addressing a need for renovations at UF’s existing dorms. The projected costs are $410 to $485 million.
UF has discussed increasing the number of honors students it admits. Building a facility that would impress the country’s brightest students would give it a better shot at recruiting them, said Chief Operating Officer Charlie Lane. As luxury student housing high-rises are built in Gainesville, it’s important to upgrade UF housing to match or compete in the housing market, Lane said.
“We’re trying to recruit the best and brightest students ... part of that is providing great living situations,” Lane said. “The housing we have right now, we feel doesn’t serve the need in that regard.”
The proposed UF Honors College Complex includes 398,000 square feet of residential space, with 1,400 beds. Plans also show it will have a 27,000-square-foot social and learning space, with a lounge and study rooms. Its 50,000-square-foot commons area would include a library, honors college offices, 14 meeting rooms and several more study rooms.
A recreational facility is also planned for the complex, as well as a park-like lawn behind the college. The buildings will be situated, according to the plan, so that there would be a natural courtyard in the middle. The complex is expected to cost about $175 million.
Also planned is a 500-bed athletic and general student dorm across the street from Hume Hall.
UF plans to finish the honors college and athletics dorm by fall 2023. It’s projected to cost $60 million.
Also in 2023, UF plans to demolish Rawlings Hall, a 352-bed dorm, and start renovating Beaty Towers east. UF says renovating the existing building will cost about 65% of the tab for new construction.
Within 10 years, UF plans to renovate Beaty West, Yulee Hall, Mallory Hall, Fletcher Hall and Sledd Hall. It also plans to demolish Trusler Hall and Simpson Hall.
The biggest change to the look of UF’s campus would be its landscaping plan, which Lane said could be pivotal to recruiting high-profile students to come to the university. Students want to have a campus that feels connected and welcoming, Lane said, and where students have space to interact and network.
To do that, the university plans to increase density near its core. A plan presented by Lane and other consultants would close Union Road, which runs next to Tigert Hall and intersects at Newell and Buckman Drives, so it can be turned into a pedestrian walkway.
The idea would be to keep traffic and its fumes out of the core of the campus, near Plaza of The Americas, where students spend most of their time.
Union Road would be narrowed from about 40 feet wide to about 21 feet. The pedestrian walkway would run from Union Road off Southwest 13th Street to Newell Drive. The once-driveable Newell Road section near Turlington Hall would also be turned into a walkable path, and a plaza would be built around Century Tower.
This would cost about $20 million.
New academic buildings, some of which have already received state funding, will also take up a large chunk of the $1.5 billion. UF plans to spend $495 million dollars on academic projects, $390 million on non-academic projects, $378 million on UF Health projects, and $323 million on utilities, landscape and transportation during the next five years.
UF wants to spend $183 million on a new UF College of Dentistry and $125 million on its new Data Science and Information Technology academic building. Other notable projects include:$250 million on a new Central Energy Plant, electrical substation and utility infrastructure $69 million for UF Health Shands offices at The Oaks Mall $65 million UAA Football training complex $60 million on UF Health Operating Room renovations $52 million on the Shands Hotel being built off 16th Avenue $30 million on campus safety and security $30 million on parking structures $22 million on a new student health facility $14 million for the Infirmary renovations (for UF Economics)
Lane conceded that $2.25 billion is “a lot of money,” but noted that UF operates on a budget of $6 billion a year. Therefore, paying more than a billion dollars over the course of five years isn’t insurmountable.
“I don’t think there should be a sticker shock here,” he said.
Lane said the key to bringing in top students is making sure the university looks its part and has the best facilities.
Paying for these facilities will take donations, state funding, and, perhaps, an increase in student dorm rental prices to offset the cost, Lane said.
“People like to put their names on buildings,” he said, jokingly.
This story was originally published at gainesville.com and shared to GateHouse Media's Florida websites.