Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on May 1 the state will allow construction businesses to resume work again under certain guidelines and practices starting on May 7. Many construction projects on campus are set to continue, with only a few still halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order.
Major construction projects such as the construction and renovations at the Edward Henry Kraus Building, the expansion and renovations at the Dental W.K. Kellogg Institute Building and the construction of the new Dance Building are scheduled to resume.
Despite the University shutting down its campus, the construction for the new Dance Building has decided to resume its process with a project budget of $19 million and will be located on North Campus.
Each year, the Department of Dance at the University has 76 Dance students and around 800 other majors attending their classes. The construction of the new Dance Building began fall 2019 and is expected to be completed by June 2021. It will be approximately 24,000 square feet and will include a 100-seat performance venue, dance studios, locker rooms and more space for administration.
Christian Matijas-Mecca, associate chair of the Department of Dance and associate professor of dance, discussed the renovations.
“This building has been many, many years in the making in terms of preparation and discussions … everybody’s really excited about it finally being underway and close to completion,” Matijas-Mecca said.
Though many dance majors are excited about the new Dance Building, they still expressed the importance of keeping workers safe and healthy. Music, Theatre & Dance senior Shannon Nulf emphasized the importance of keeping workers safe.
“I think whatever we can do as citizens to protect each other in the name of public health is of utmost importance,” Nulf said. “I hope what is happening on the construction site and in this construction project is keeping people safe.”
The Edward Henry Kraus Building project is funded by the Office of the Provost’s resources and has a budget of $120 million. It is anticipated to be finished by December 2020. This 105-year-old building is planning to be renovated with a 62,000-square-foot addition that will be a part of its current 183,000-square-foot structure. It will mainly function as a new location for the School of Kinesiology.
Kinesiology junior Leah Colthrop described how Kinesiology students will benefit from the new building.
“I think Kinesiology started off as a smaller school, and it’s gaining growth so to speak, so having our own building is building upon that and giving us the resources we need to still continue to grow,” Colthrop said. “Since we’re so spread out, it would be really nice, and we kind of deserve to have a building that’s our own where we can have everything there all at once.”
Due to the pandemic, construction projects are facing challenges such as financial losses and layoffs, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
Taubman junior Max Coolidge, said he believes the COVID-19 pandemic is something new that contractors have to handle.
“The construction industry has a great degree of discipline and experience with PPE (personal protective equipment), but this is sort of a new challenge that they have to deal with,” Coolidge said. “We want to make sure our contractors are safe but also fairly compensated.”
Coolidge explained the complexity of the challenges that the construction industry has to face, like halting projects such as the new 12-story inpatient facility facility for Michigan Medicine, which is paused due to Michigan Medicine’s financial recovery plan.
“Construction is complex because the deadlines aren’t all arbitrary and imposed. I know when they throttled down some of the construction on the medical campus, some work had to continue there for those sites to be safe,” Coolidge said. “The other issue is just the basic quarantine, social distancing, personal contact problems that we’re all facing right now. None of those are outside of the construction realm, but construction deals with that and their own really difficult and complex issues with real-life building constraints.”
University Planner Susan Gott talked about how the pandemic has affected these projects’ deadlines.
“I think most of our other projects that had been under construction that were paused, and that now have resumed, will have that few weeks of time that will have to be made up,” Gott said. “Some may be able to create ways to absorb that and others may not, but we certainly would expect those delays would be reasonable in response to the state’s executive order.”
Gott also emphasizes that their main priority is public health, and describes what the University is doing to protect them.
“We’ve really been looking to our experts, which are those in the School of Public Health, those from the state and federal level, to help guide what those safety measures are,” Gott said. “We’re following those guidelines that are established by those authorities and, again, making sure that our contractors follow those same requirements so that our campus community can also stay safe.”
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