Education

UK proposes $250 million push to renovate older buildings in campus core

Part of UK's Student Center was demolished in July, but the rest of the building is undergoing its first renovation and expansion in more than 30 years. Planning started in spring of 2014 and the brand-new facility is slated to open in January 2018.
Part of UK's Student Center was demolished in July, but the rest of the building is undergoing its first renovation and expansion in more than 30 years. Planning started in spring of 2014 and the brand-new facility is slated to open in January 2018. Herald-Leader

The University of Kentucky is going to break with tradition when the General Assembly convenes in January — instead of asking for money for new buildings, UK is going to ask for funding to fix up older ones in the campus core.

UK wants authorization to create a $250 million pool made up of $125 million in state bonds and another $125 million in agency bonds, philanthropy and cash provided by UK.

The plan could affect as many as 19 buildings, most built before 1940, that sit in an area bounded by Avenue of Champions, South Limestone, Rose and Washington Avenue. Facilities officials will work with deans, faculty and staff to decide the best process for renovation.

"This is a trailblazing initiative in higher education," said Mary Vosevich, UK vice president for facilities management. "Universities in higher education struggle with existing buildings and how to maintain them. It's truly unique and it will be very exciting and make a huge difference to our faculty, staff and students."

Any public university capital project over $600,000 has to be approved by the legislature.

UK officials said they are confident the legislature will approve the plan after meeting with lawmakers.

"We are optimistic because, I think, of our record of success over the last four years," said UK President Eli Capilouto. "They have confidence in us to embrace something that's a little different."

Capilouto said renovation is more complicated than the typical legislative approach to capital projects, which is to get a campus wish list and then fund the number one building on the list.

"We don't need another one building, we need this," Capilouto said. "They understand what we need to do."

The Facility Condition Index is the industry standard for assessing the condition of buildings. A score of 10 is considered fair. The average score in UK's core is 50.

The renovations will focus on building codes and safety, better adaptation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the creation of collaborative spaces, and better energy conservation.

As part of its ongoing campus renovation since 2011, UK has torn down a number of historic and architecturally significant buildings. In light of community criticism, officials have now made a point of noting the facilities they've saved, including the oldest parts of the Student Center and Patterson Hall, which is undergoing a $15 million renovation.

In other business

■ The Board of Trustees approved the next five-year strategic plan, which emphasizes improving retention and graduation rates, as well as improvements in research, graduate education and community outreach.

■ The board approved the design phase of the Law School renovation, a $65 million project.

■ And it approved the official appointment of general counsel William Thro, who came to UK in 2012. Capilouto said it was an oversight that his hiring was not officially approved by the board.

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