CU Boulder plans $22M expansion of Koelbel Building
The Daily Camera
The University of Colorado is planning a $22 million, donor-funded construction project to expand and renovate the Koelbel Building, home of the Leeds School of Business.
The project, if approved by the CU Board of Regents, would add 30,000 square feet to the north side of the building on the university's main Boulder campus. The university also plans to renovate 10,000 square feet of existing space, which includes the William M. White Business Library.
The campus put out a request for proposals this week. Construction could begin in the spring of 2019, with a target completion date of sometime in early 2020.
Fundraisers are working in earnest to secure donations for the project, which will fund the majority of the $22 million cost. The College of Engineering and Applied Science will also chip in because its students will benefit from a new 200-seat auditorium and a 175-seat active-learning classroom.
The campus is working to secure donation commitments by August 2017 and all payments by December 2019. Planners likely won't take the project to the Board of Regents until this fall, when they know they have enough donations to pay for it.
Koelbel first opened in 1970 as a 100,000-square-foot facility. In 2007, the campus renovated much of the building and added another 65,000-square-feet.
'Great chance to collaborate'
The proposed renovation and expansion project will likely create some sort of physical connection, such as a bridge or a walkway, between Koelbel and CU's Engineering Complex.
"We don't know what that is or what it will look like, but we feel like engineering and business are really connected and that's certainly what each of our deans are really keen on making happen," said Doug Smith, the engineering school's assistant dean for programs and engagement.
The engineering college has been trying to add a 200-seat, auditorium-style classroom to the engineering complex for the last two years. Crews are currently working on a $26 million renovation of the Engineering Center's south wing.
"We found a couple places (for the 200-seat classroom), but they just didn't work and it was too expensive, so we kind of abandoned the idea," Smith said. "But we've continued to think about it and working with our planners, we came up with this idea that Koelbel has been trying to figure out a way to expand some things in their building. We need this classroom. What a great chance to collaborate."
Smith said the 200-seat classroom will be critical for the school's growing computer science department. Large first-year classes in math and other subjects will also benefit from the large classroom.
The project will also add a small number of offices to be used by future business faculty members and will update the building's heating and air condition system. It also will create a new "innovation and entrepreneurship hub" where students can partner with faculty and local businesspeople to turn their ideas into businesses.
"In general (we) are looking to increase both the number of students and the needed faculty to support their development," said Zeel Patel, the spokeswoman for the business school, in an email.
Patel wrote that Leeds has been exploring how to expand its physical space for the last several years. The expansion and renovation idea surfaced late last year, she wrote.
Donors showing interest
The campus is learning to rely less on state funds for construction projects and is instead looking for innovative ways to pay for its capital needs, which includes a nearly $500 million deferred maintenance backlog, a figure that's likely to increase when campus officials finish re-evaluating the backlog this semester. More than 60 percent of campus buildings are at least 50 years old.
The campus recently completed a space audit to determine how it could make better use of its buildings, generate new revenue and find savings through energy efficiency measures.
"When there is an opportunity to get state funding, especially for academic spaces, that's definitely something we would love to pursue with work with the state on, but funding is tight and so we're always looking at alternative forms of financing to meet our requirements," said David Kang, CU's new vice chancellor for infrastructure and safety.
Kang said there was a lot of interest in the project from donors, who are excited about how the project will strengthen the partnership between the business school and the engineering school. Donors were also interested in the innovation and entrepreneurial space the project adds to the building.
Patel, the business school spokeswoman, said funding the project with donations was an innovative option that frees up campus funds for other construction needs.
"There are many campus needs for space in excess of the University's ability to fund all of these needs," Patel wrote. "... The campus has enabled us to explore this opportunity with philanthropic investors as a way to drive this project forward without slowing down progress other units on campus are making with regards to addressing their space needs."