Remodeled building offers “smart” addition to Metropolitan State University campus


East Siders heading toward downtown St. Paul on East Seventh Street may have their curiosity piqued by a flurry of construction activity at Metropolitan State University this summer. So-called “smart classrooms” are being added on campus.

A remodeled 16,500-square-foot space that once housed the university’s bookstore will be outfitted with sophisticated instructional technology, offering students a high-quality learning environment. This advanced equipment-computers, digital cameras, DVD/VCR players, digital projectors and more-will be integrated into instructor stations in four first-floor classrooms. The second floor will feature a large conference room, three seminar spaces and 18 new offices.

“We’ve got this technology elsewhere in about half of the classrooms on campus,” said Dan Hambrock, the university’s associate vice president of capital planning and campus services. “Since these classrooms are much sought after by faculty and students, the building will really be appreciated by the users.”

The $5.86 million project cost was approved by the Minnesota Legislature in March. Demolition and reconstruction of the existing two-story building, including linkage with the library skyway, is scheduled to begin in June. Construction is expected to be substantially completed one year later, with classrooms ready for fall semester 2011.

“When the construction is done, the exterior of the building will be aesthetically pleasing,” says Hambrock. It will offer a more uniform look for the campus, which was once the site of the old Saint John’s Hospital. “It will be a real asset to the university and the Dayton’s Bluff community.”

Metropolitan State first sought remodeling funds for the 90-year-old building in the early 1990s. The basement, housing the campus’ heating, electrical and cooling plant, is in good shape, but the rest of the facility was plagued with a leaking roof, failing windows and required substantial asbestos removal. Since 1996, governors have vetoed remodeling money for the facility three times.

Significantly, the building, representing an extension of Saint John’s Hall, will provide much-needed additional classrooms and academic offices. The campus has been squeezed for space for years, and rising enrollment has compounded that situation.

“We’ve got academic programs bursting at the seams, because they need more space, and we have faculty doubling up on offices,” said Hambrock. “Once completed, the building will be heavily utilized and a welcome addition to our campus.”

Harvey Meyer is an Academic Writer/Editor at Metropolitan State.