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.

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.

The project is expected to cost $4.4 million and is slated for completion by fall 2013.

Also included in the lineup of approved projects was a proposed $9 million renovation to the Glenn E. Schembechler Hall’s entrance and museum. The renovation will add additional square footage to the University’s museum of football history, as well as renovate existing galleries. No estimated completion date was given.

Provost Hanlon brings letter to State Budget Office to attention

University Provost Philip Hanlon also presented a letter signed by University President Mary Sue Coleman to the State Budget Office detailing the University’s cost saving and efficiency measurements. The letter could have a strong effect on future appropriations from the state to the University.

In previous years, Coleman submitted the University’s state budget requests to the Regents for approval before submitting it to the budget office. Now, universities must submit a letter to the State Budget Office assessing their annual performance, efficiency and suggestions for funding modifications.

According to Hanlon, Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration approached the issue of higher education differently than their predecessors, which led to the new efficiency metrics system.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily on Wednesday, Hanlon said the University received a 2 percent funding increase last year, calling it “a step in the right direction.”

Hanlon speculated the University might not see as large of an increase in the coming year because of fairly flat early revenue reports from the state. He added the University hopes to receive more funding and support from the state in the future because it plays an important academic and economic role for Michigan.

“We believe that the University is an important player in the future of the state, particularly for economic developments and workforce training and for creating a wonderful environment for the development of the state,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon recently announced that he will leave the University at the end of the year to become the 18th president of Dartmouth College. Coleman has acknowledged that the University has begun searching for his replacement.

Follow Sam on Twitter at @gringsam and Jen at @JenCalfas.

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