Local college construction projects wrap up as school year approaches

After two years of construction, major renovation projects on two area college campuses will wrap up in the coming weeks.

At University of Wisconsin-Platteville, officials are preparing to welcome students to the new, $55 million Sesquicentennial Hall, while Northeast Iowa Community College officials are wrapping up work on a $22.5 million renovation to the Peosta campus.

The work is among multiple construction projects concluding at local colleges and universities as officials prepare for classes to resume.

‘Everybody under one roof’

At UW-P, Sesquicentennial Hall adjoins Busby Hall of Engineering to create a 200,000-square-foot complex that will house all of UW-P’s engineering and computer science programs.

Philip Parker, acting dean of UW-P’s College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, said that closeness will facilitate collaboration among students in different majors.

“It’s just so obvious that we need to be interdisciplinary in manufacturing today,” he said. “Here, we’ll have everybody under one roof in close proximity, and we expect a lot of great teaching and research to come out of that.”

The engineering programs previously were housed in Ottensman Hall. Parker said that building still will be home to classes for other majors, including chemistry, and the university plans to renovate it in the future.

Sesquicentennial Hall boasts classrooms, laboratories, student study spaces, conference rooms, offices and the Huff Family Innovation Center, a makerspace open to students and the public.

“It will have virtually everything you need to make anything you can imagine, from 3D printing to sewing and vinyl cutting,” Parker said of the Innovation Center.

He also is excited about the hall’s accessible “green roof,” a stormwater management technique that involves a layer of vegetation planted over a waterproofing system on a part of the roof, as well as areas where the building’s infrastructure has been left exposed behind glass windows to give engineering students a peek into the construction process.

Built for growth

Construction on the project to renovate NICC’s Peosta campus began in summer 2020.

The first two phases of work were completed last summer. They included a link between the main building and the industrial technologies building, new classrooms and office space, a new dining area and updates to classrooms.

Now, workers are finishing phases three and four, according to Rhonda Seibert, associate vice president for operations. They included renovations to student services facilities, offices, the front entrance, parking lots and roadways and the campus conference center.

Seibert said the new conference center, which can seat up to 350 and can be subdivided into four rooms, uses space more effectively than its predecessor.

“The layout of the old space was in an L shape, so it was difficult to do a large event just because of the walls,” she said. “We reoriented it and made it a big space that we can fully utilize.”

A traffic circle has replaced a T-intersection on NICC Drive, which Seibert said will improve traffic flow and provide easier access to several on-campus buildings.

“It should reduce quite a bit of the congestion that we used to have at the beginning of the day,” she said.

Also opening this fall alongside the Peosta campus will be an apartment complex developed by College Suites LLC with space for 190 students.

“I really anticipate the Peosta campus is going to continue to grow and attract students, with the housing and the new facilities and all the amenities that are growing in the Peosta and Dubuque area,” Seibert said.

Additional projects

Other local colleges have undertaken smaller-scale construction projects.

At University of Dubuque, work continues to redevelop 600 feet of Grace Street between McCormick and Algona streets into a pedestrian-friendly space.

The project is among the last steps of a master plan to connect the upper and lower parts of UD’s campus and is projected to be completed in October, according to UD spokesperson Stacey Ortman.

The university also is wrapping up a two-year project to replace the roof and exterior of Aitchison Hall, one of three first-year residence halls on campus, and officials also completed upgrades to Smeltzer-Kelly Student Health Center.

Clarke University completed tuckpointing and began work on a heating system update in Catherine Byrne Hall and installed a replacement roof on Mary Josita Hall, according to spokesperson Gayle Langel. Mary Josita and Mary Benedict residence halls also underwent renovations.

At Loras College, workers finalized renovations to Beckman Hall, including updates to rooms in the residence hall as well as new modern kitchenettes and laundry facilities, new common areas and a chapel.

Spokesperson Robert Waterbury said the college also recently finished improvements to the fourth floor of Keane Hall, which was remodeled to offer lab space, offices and study space.