News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 7, 2013

ISU Trustees approve renovations

Board addresses Normal Hall, downtown housing project, old Lafayette Avenue entrance

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University officials are moving forward with plans to spend up to $16 million to renovate the campus’ oldest academic building to serve as the Center for Student Success.

Meanwhile, discussions continue on a proposed downtown housing project, and officials hope to bring it back to the board of trustees next month.

ISU trustees on Friday authorized the administration to seek state approval to spend up to $16 million to renovate Normal Hall to house University College and Student Academic Services.

The former library, located in the center of campus, will house support services intended to improve student retention and graduation rates. University College uses a new approach to advising aimed at helping freshmen succeed in college.

The 2013-15 state budget included funding for the Normal Hall renovation.

The legislature provided a cash appropriation of $16 million. “We appreciate the inclusion of this important project in the biennial state budget,” said ISU President Dan Bradley.

Dedicated in 1910, the building served as ISU’s library until 1973. Most recently, it has served as storage and office space.

The building originally featured a rotunda with a grand staircase and stained-glass dome. Those features will be recreated as part of the renovation, which will also include new classrooms, mentoring and tutoring areas, interview suites and offices.

While the Legislature has approved funding, the Commission for Higher Education and State Budget Committee must grant university officials the authority to spend the money.

The renovation is expected to be completed by summer 2015, said Diann McKee, vice president for business affairs and finance.

During comments at the start of the meeting, Bradley briefly updated the board on the status of a proposed downtown housing project in the 500 block of Wabash Avenue involving developer Thompson Thrift.

Bradley stated that ISU “continues to work with a local developer to address the state’s concerns regarding our downtown student housing project. It is my hope that a new proposal will be on the agenda for the October meeting.”

Trustees previously approved a 30-year lease agreement for the project, but the State Budget Committee — which also must approve it — tabled the item in July. Budget committee members say the agreement requires changes that are more favorable to ISU.

Under the proposal, Thompson Thrift would construct and own the retail/residential building, while ISU would lease the upper floors for housing. ISU’s proposed annual lease payments were about $1.05 million.

McKee said after Friday’s meeting that “over the past several weeks, we’ve looked at various options as to how we could complete the project and meet the state’s concerns. We’re continuing to evaluate some things and what, if any changes, can be made to the original proposal.”

Whether the project can proceed depends on what state officials “will allow and not allow,” she said. She believes that approval will call for “some significant changes.”

In other action, trustees authorized the donation of 3,650 square feet of ISU property to the Indiana Department of Transportation to provide access from U.S. 41 to a campus parking lot between Fourth Street and the former Lafayette Avenue.

The project would “re-open a portion of what was formerly known as Lafayette Avenue” to facilitate traffic flow, McKee said. The project would allow one-way, northbound traffic to the parking area. Drivers could not exit southbound onto Third Street; they would  exit the parking lot by going south on Fourth Street.

“This is not a re-opening of Lafayette Avenue as many recall it going through campus,” McKee said. Lafayette Avenue in that immediate area was closed several years ago.

For the project, INDOT requires construction of a deceleration lane off of Third Street and asked ISU for the land donation, McKee said.

ISU will fund, design and construct the project with INDOT approval, said Bryan Duncan, ISU director of capital planning and improvement, earlier this week. The $100,000 cost includes the deceleration lane, a new sidewalk, utility relocation and an entry drive to the ISU parking lot.

ISU eventually hopes to acquire the former Toney Petroleum property now owned by the city; the property is located in the same area, just off the former Lafayette Avenue, and ISU would like to use it for parking, McKee said.

In other action Friday, ISU trustees:

n Approved Reeve Hall as the name for a new residence hall under construction on the campus’ north side. The name honors Helen Reeve, who served as women’s residence hall director and dean of women in the mid-1900s. The former Women’s Residence Hall on the southeast side of campus carried Reeve’s name from 1959 until it was razed in 1998.

The new residence hall will house sororities currently located in Lincoln Quad and potentially other student groups.

n Approved a revised policy aimed at controlling textbook costs, a change the university administration and Faculty Senate developed jointly during the summer.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.