State commits $51 million for renovation of Morrill Science Center at UMass

Last modified: Monday, December 09, 2013
AMHERST — Planning for renovations to a science center complex on the University of Massachusetts campus can begin following the release of state money for the project this week.

The $51 million for the modernization of Morrill Science Center, a four-building complex constructed between 1959 and 1966, is part of the 2014 Capital Investment Plan announced Wednesday by Gov. Deval Patrick.

“We’re very pleased and grateful it is coming,” said UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski.

He said UMass sought this money for deferred maintenance as part of the $2 billion higher education bond bill signed by Patrick in 2008.

The Morrill complex, located along North Pleasant Street, houses the college of natural sciences and the disciplines of biology and geology, Blaguszewski said. Several greenhouses are adjacent to Morrill.

Initially, a small portion of the money will be available to begin examining the buildings at Morrill, determining the extent of repairs and upgrades needed to the mechanical and air handling systems, and other aspects of the buildings, Blaguszewski said.

“The $2.55 million released is the first stage to do detailed planning and evaluation,” Blaguszewski said.

Morrill is one of three buildings on the Amherst campus targeted for deferred maintenance renovations in the capital bond bill. The others are Lederle Graduate Research Center, which needs an estimated $41 million in improvements, and Machmer Hall, slated to get $1.6 million in upgrades. Blaguszewski said money for those projects has not yet been released.

The education bond bill also contained money for UMass for the still under-construction $85 million academic classroom building and $100 million for the recently completed laboratory science building.

Meanwhile, Patrick also released $20.3 million to Holyoke Community College for renovations to its Campus Center as part of the investment plan. This will include waterproofing the 1981 building and possibly expanding it to bring the student activities office and the culinary arts program closer to the food court.

“We are most appreciative of this commitment by the state as it will address a critical need and be a significant step in alleviating deferred maintenance issues on our campus,” college President William F. Messner said in a message sent to the campus community Thursday.