UW-Eau Claire seeks new $256M science hall

Eau Claire (WQOW) – Science students at UW-Eau Claire could soon be studying in a new hall. 

A proposed project would mean the end for the current science building, Phillips Hall, which is more than 50 years old. Assistant Chancellor for Facilities Mike Rindo told News 18 a study was done that showed it wasn’t feasible functionally or structurally to renovate the current Phillips Hall. 

For one, Rindo said the building has a wide-load capacity of 50 pounds per square foot. Current structures average around 150 pounds per square foot. This means, all the heavy science equipment can only be placed on the first floor of the building. 

Another issue facing the current hall is maintenance. Of the campus’ 33 buildings, Phillips also accounts for 27 percent of work repair orders. 

In addition to all the structural issues, Rindo said the building no longer functions for the STEM programs they offer.  

"Science has changed a lot in the last 50 years," Rindo said. "The way we do science in labs and classrooms is very different; Phillips was designed for 1960s science." 

A replacement hall would be built on lower campus where two dorms currently sit – Putnam and Katherine Thomas. Rindo said the new residence hall currently under construction will add capacity. He said the school hopes to add a new dining hall with residence space above it sometime in the future. 

Related: Fences begin to go up around new UW-Eau Claire construction site 

The two-phase project would cost more than $256 million. Rindo said tax dollars would primarily fund the project along with some gift money. 

If approved, planning the project would take a couple of years. A groundbreaking could come as soon as 2021 and and would hopefully wrap up in 2023. 

The Board of Regents is meeting in Madison on Thursday to discuss it. 

Rindo said this item is the highest priority in their capital budget. He hopes the building will not only serve the campus, but benefit the entire Chippewa Valley. 

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