Vacant hall proposed for upgrades
A historic building on campus is being examined as a possible location to expand the MSU Graduate School if the university is able to come up with several million dollars in funding.
Chittenden Hall— one of the buildings located on MSU’s laboratory row along West Circle Drive — has been vacant for at least 10 years, said university engineer Bob Nestle, and several graduate student representatives would like to see the building turned into a hub for graduate
Karen Klomparens, dean of the graduate school, said Chittenden Hall was designated as a possible location for the graduate school to move about 15 years ago when its occupants were moving out.
The graduate school currently is located in nearby Linton Hall.
The graduate school developed a “new concept” for itself in 1994, which has included expanding the amount of external research dollars for graduate research, Klomparens said. That requires more space — the reason for the possible move, she said.
The school has been in contact with President Lou Anna K. Simon and Provost Kim Wilcox off and on about the possibility of renovating the building since then, Klomparens said.
“It’s something we may wish to find a donor for as we continue to talk to alums around the country,” Klomparens said.
“It’s being actively explored.”
Nestle said the university has put a request for $5.6 million in state funds on its capital outlay request this year to renovate Chittenden Hall, money that has been requested for the past several years.
Still, Nestle said he’s not “terribly optimistic” it will receive funding with the tight budget under which the state is operating.
“Not only do you have a lot of deferred maintenance, but the problem is you need to renovate it to serve a useful function nowadays,” he said.
Nestle said a significant amount of work would need to be done on the building to bring it up to code. For example, the restrooms in the building are not accessible for wheelchair users and the communication and fire safety systems don’t meet modern standards.
Still, university renovations to nearby historic buildings such as Eustace-Cole Hall — which now houses the Honors College — and Marshall-Adams Hall have been very successful, Nestle said.
“(Those) are outstanding examples of how you can take an older building like that with lots of character and retain some of the key type heritage issues in the building to remind people that it is still an old building, but it can serve a modern function,” he said.
Adam Lovgren and Suzanne Borkowski — members of the executive board for the Council of Graduate Students — presented at the April 15 Board of Trustees meeting about their hope to renovate Chittenden Hall into a graduate student resource area and social center.
Borkowski, the medical school liaison for the council, said many graduate students don’t have an opportunity to interact with graduate students outside of their department and some medical students struggle to feel part of the MSU community.
“This project is an opportunity to stop the academic and social isolation that most graduate and professional students feel,” Borkowski said.
Klomparens said if the graduate school were to move to Chittenden Hall, there would be an opportunity to incorporate this type of a center.