At the University’s Board of Regents meeting held on Thursday, the governing body approved a host of property purchases and renovations, and also recognized a budget request letter sent to the state's budget office.
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The meeting Thursday will be the board’s last formal gathering until Feb. 21, 2013. Instead, board members will spend time in California at a series of workshops and discussions about challenges facing higher education across the nation. It was also the last meeting for longtime Regents Olivia Maynard (D–Goodrich) and S. Martin Taylor (D–Grosse Pointe Farms), whose terms expire on January 1, 2013.
Their Democratic replacements, incoming regents Mark Bernstein and Shauna Ryder Diggs, will travel to the meetings and seminars in Los Angeles, which begin Jan. 17.
One of the most significant agenda items approved by the regents was the purchase of properties located on South Division Street, including the building in which the Blimpy Burger restaurant is located.
The $1.075 million purchase includes a 2,776-square-foot apartment and the 950-square-foot restaurant located on 549 and 551 S. Division St., respectively. The current property’s managers will continue to management until the tenants’ leases expire on at the end of August.
“They are adjacent to central campus and very strategically located,” said Timothy Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University does not have any specific plans for the property yet, but that it fits within the “traditional footprint” of Central Campus.
“It was an opportunity that presented itself to acquire those properties,” Fitzgerald said. “And in the Central Campus area, it’s something we always have to be mindful of. You always have to look to the future.”
Fitzgerald added that he believes eight to nine months will be sufficient time for Blimpy Burger owner Rich Magner to find a new location for the campus staple.
The regents also approved a separate purchase of a nearby 0.09-acre apartment complex located on 545 S. Division St. for $425,000. The properties current residents will also be able to complete their leases through August 31, 2013.
Regents approve series of renovations, including air-conditioning in South Quad, West Quad and the Michigan Union
In addition to the property acquisitions, the regents approved a host of renovations to several University facilities.
Commanding an estimated price of $8.5 million, the University plans to construct a regional chiller plant, which will provide air conditioning to South Quadrangle, West Quadrangle and the Michigan Union upon the project's expected completion in summer 2014
Regent Andrew C. Richner's (R-Grosse Pointe Park) claim that the air conditioning might “ruin the ambiance” of living in the residence halls was met with laughter from the other regents.
The regents also approved a request to revamp fire suppression systems at Martha Cook Residence Hall. With the completion of that project by the end of the summer, all 18 University residence halls will have upgraded fire safety systems.
E. Royster Harper, the University's vice president of student affairs, noted that the fire safety work will be completed "a couple years ahead of schedule."
The Angell Hall Courtyard Computing Site, often called the “Fishbowl” for its sunken level computer lab surrounded by glass walls, has also been approved for renovation. Updates will include the computer area, as well as Angell Hall classrooms.
Though the renovations will improve the space’s functionality, safety and accessibility, “the Fishbowl will remain the Fishbowl, but it will be more usable,” Slottow said.