The home of physics and astronomy — the David M. Dennison Building — is set to receive both a physical makeover, as well as a change of tenants.
According to a plan approved by the Board of Regents on July 17, the building will be renovated to become the new home of centers, institutes and units focusing on international engagement. Renovations will focus on the 10-story high-rise section of the building, which will include extending windows outward on the 10th floor as well as a plan to enclose the overhang area on the ground floor for added space.
The International Institute and all of its centers will move from the School of Social Work Building to Dennison, and LSA centers focusing on international engagement will also relocate to Dennison. The Department of Astronomy, currently housed in Dennison, will move to West Hall, which is currently undergoing a renovation of its own.
At the regents meeting on the 17th, Provost Martha E. Pollack praised the renovation plan and noted Dennison’s unique history.
“I just want to quickly mention that virtually every student that has been at the University of Michigan probably in the last fifty years has taken a class in Dennison,” Pollack said. “I think it’s fair to say that it’s one of our most run-down buildings and this renovation is really going to make it quite the opposite, and it’s going to take the International Institute, which are increasingly important as our students do more global work, give them a nice home, make it actually more efficient on campus.”
In the proposal approved by the board, Chief Financial Officer Douglas Strong, interim executive vice president, estimated the renovation cost to be $49 million.
“A renovation of approximately 106,000 gross square feet vacated by the relocation of the Department of Astronomy to West Hall and the repurposing of classrooms will create spaces that will facilitate faculty collaboration and enhance opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students,” Strong submitted in the proposal.
Devon Keen, program manager at the University’s African Studies Center, which is a part of the International Institute, one of the building’s new proposed tenants, said while their current location at the School of Social Work is great, crowding has occasionally been a problem.
“There are many centers here and we could definitely use some expanded common space,” she said. “There’s not a lot of room for events, so we are often vying for the same space during the busiest times of the year, because we have really one big room that’s used for large events, and then smaller rooms.”
Keen said for the move, one important aspect will be preserving each of the International Institute’s centers’ unique identities in its new Dennison facilities.
“It’s very important to us that the identity of each individual center is maintained so that if someone walks into this space, they’ll be able to clearly see, oh, ‘I’m now in the African Studies Center,’ or ‘I’m now at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies,’ because I think that’s part of what draws people to us, is that individuality of each center,” Keen said.
She added that overall, she would like the African Studies Center to have more space for events, lectures, meetings and other activities in Dennison.
“It’s always nice to have a new, upgraded surrounding, and I’m very interested to see how it will look in the end,” Keen said.
A schematic design for the building, which will provide more details about space allocation in the building, has not yet been submitted to or approved by the regents.