Mount Union Plans for New Building Projects

October 20, 2011

During its annual fall meeting, the University of Mount Union Board of Trustees unanimously approved moving forward with preliminary design for two new potential construction projects – a health and medical sciences facility and a renovation and addition to the current arts complex.
Both of these projects emerged as priorities in the campus master planning process underway at the University.  Mount Union has partnered with Westlake Reed Leskosky, a Cleveland-based architectural and engineering firm, to carry out this planning, which will identify immediate and longer-ranging campus facility and grounds needs.
Prior to making their decision, members of the Board of Trustees were updated on the campus master planning process and findings to date.  They also learned about the proposed projects that would fulfill current and future needs in the health and medical sciences and the arts.
“Over the years, demand in the sciences has been on a meteoric rise at Mount Union,” said Dr. Richard F. Giese, president of the University.  “In addition, we’ve recently added new health-related programs, and our strategic plan calls for further exploration in such fields, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.   Thus, additional classroom and laboratory space is paramount.”
Since the opening of Bracy Hall in 2003, enrollment in biology and chemistry courses has nearly doubled, and the launch of the Physician Assistant Studies Program has further exacerbated the space issues in this facility.  In addition, the launch of a bachelor of science in nursing program, planned for the fall of 2013 pending the appropriate approvals, will come with additional space demands.
Likewise, the University’s current arts facility, which includes Cope Music Hall, Crandall Art Gallery and Rodman Playhouse, has been serving students for nearly 60 years.  These facilities have limitations in terms of code, accessibility and infrastructure.  Programmatically, a renovated and modernized facility will better meet the needs of the more than 50% of enrolled students who indicate an interest in participating in the arts at some level during their time on campus.
“A thriving arts program is critical to our mission to prepare students for fulfilling lives, meaningful work and responsible citizenship,” said Giese.  “Not only do students have an opportunity to major in these fields, but a great number of students participate in art, music and theatre at the extracurricular level.  It truly leads to their intellectual enrichment as well as their social and personal fulfillment, and a renovated facility will only increase these opportunities.”
Although plans are in the early stages, it is anticipated that the health and medical sciences facility would come in the form of a new wing on the south end of Bracy Hall along Union Avenue, the current site of the Mount Union Theatre.  In addition, it is expected that the existing arts complex would be expanded on current University-owned property with portions of the present facility being renovated.  This result will be enhanced space for music and theatre as well as the relocation of the visual arts space currently housed in Eells Art Center.  The timing of construction will be dependent upon the institution’s ability to secure the necessary funding, currently estimated at $25 million.
“Our plans are not yet completed, but these two projects at these two particular locations provide for many synergies,” said Giese.  “The addition to Bracy Hall to house the health and medical sciences is a natural fit, and a new performance space will upgrade and replace the functionality currently provided by Mount Union Theatre.  All the while, these new facilities will only increase the attractiveness of the Union Avenue corridor.”
Over the years, the institution has removed outdated and worn structures on Union Avenue, replacing them with the Fred J. Haupt President’s House, Physical Plant, Sigma Nu house and two villages of apartment-style housing.  Recent efforts have included enhanced landscaping and a partnership with local interests to improve the condition of the Glamorgan Lakes area.
The University purchased Mount Union Theatre in the late 1970s, and after operating the theatre as a not-for-profit community outreach vehicle for many years, ceased showing movies to the public in the mid-2000s as a result of increased operating expenses.  Over the years, demand for use of the theatre, both by the University and Alliance communities, has diminished.  The building is not sustainable, structurally sound or ADA compliant.
Current efforts are underway to determine if and how some of the nostalgic elements of the theatre, such as the marquee and the ticket booth, can be preserved.
“We’ve invested more than $100 million in our campus facilities and grounds in the past decade, and this is simply the next phase in providing an enhanced environment, not only for our students, but also for the betterment of the Alliance community as a whole,” said Giese. “As we continue our efforts, the fine-tuned details will emerge, but at this time, the Board of Trustees and administration are pleased with the general direction of our planning.”

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