Founders getting a facelift?

Northern Kentucky University plans on renovating Founders Hall by adding an extension, the Health Innovations Center, that will double the size of the facility — but only if they can find $92 million to fund it.

The new Health Innovations Center will be focused on programs such as psychology, nursing, radiological technology and respiratory therapy, and will be built on the faculty/staff parking lot C, which separates Griffin Hall and the Natural Science Center.

“The renovations would be a good investment for our state government,” said Department of Psychological Science Chair Jeff Smith. “The Health Sciences field pays very well, and there is a large local demand for it … I really do hope the funding comes through so we can provide our students with better resources.”
Because the Health Innovations Center will be added to the existing Founder’s Hall, the renovations and the new construction will be combined into one project.
“The way we envision it happening is that we will build the expansion first and move everybody that is in Founders now into the expanded space,” said Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management Larry Blake. “Then we’ll go in and renovate the vacant Founders and open the whole thing back up, putting the right people in the right places at that time.”

According to Blake, the renovation of Founders Hall has been the number-one priority of NKU and the Council of Post-secondary Education. It has also been a high priority of the legislature of the governor’s office for the past six years. The funds put toward the renovations were expected roughly two years after the construction of the Natural Science Center. But the money has yet to show.
Blake said acquiring the renovation funds is a difficult task.

Other projects have taken precedence over projects similar to Founders Hall’s renovations. First it was the Bank of Kentucky Center, then it was the Student Union, then it was Griffin Hall, and now it’s the Campus Recreation Center.

The Capital Planning Advisory Board suggested 20 projects that they felt deserved funding and submitted them to the state. This year, renovations to Founders Hall was one of the suggested projects chosen. Kenton County Senator Jack Westwood, who serves as the co-chair of the Capital Planning Advisory Board, said that although the Founders renovations have been selected, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will get funding.”

“We had to cut, borrow and shuffle money around last year to balance the state’s budget,” Westwood said. “And this year, funding is going to be just as tight.”
Currently, construction for Founders Hall is on hold.

“There’s a lot of code compliance [with the Americans with Disabilities Act] that needs to be taken care of for the ADA accessibility issues — restrooms in particular — and if you look at the code there aren’t enough fixtures in the restrooms for students in the building, so code issues like that need to be cleaned up,” Blake said.

Issues stretch from the electrical system not having a wired ground in the conduit, a worn-out HVAC system, “inefficient” lighting, to necessary windows replacements. According to Blake, generally everything except the concrete structure needs restoration.

Three different lobbying efforts are underway in Frankfort, Ky., in order to change how NKU would receive funds, “one of them being to fund us for ‘X’ amount of dollars and not specific buildings, and to do that funding model over six years and not a two-year period,” according to Blake.
If this funding effort is approved, then construction can begin, but the project would still have to be approved by NKU administrators.

Right now the focus is on renovating the Campus Recreation Center, which is student-funded and already approved and underway. This project involving renovations to Founders and the Health Innovations Center extension is still in the planning stages, but the Facilities Management office expects to have a more definitive answer by April of 2012.