Five-year construction plan totals $1.1 billion at UMass

Last modified: Monday, November 25, 2013

AMHERST — An ambitious, five-year construction and renovation plan is under way to enlarge and revitalize the campus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Estimated cost for all the projects is $1.1 billion.

The university is building new residential, classroom and laboratory space and moving ahead with long-delayed maintenance and renovation projects on most major buildings on campus.

The result will be a more welcoming campus, classrooms equipped with new technology, student residential space aimed at creating an on-campus social scene and renovated facilities that will enable cutting-edge research in science and engineering, according to Juanita Holler, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services.

Holler said UMass is using “a three-pronged approach” in its five-year master plan that will see about $200 million spent on new construction, renovations and deferred maintenance.

In the long term, the campus will be remade so that student residences are clustered at the center of its 1,450 acres, forming a social nexus, and surrounded by academic buildings, with vehicles relegated to an outer ring, according to Holler, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects who came to UMass in 2008, after 25 years at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where she directed similar projects.

“We know we want to untangle the vehicular and pedestrian traffic,” she said.

The Campus Center, student union and 24-hour Du Bois Library form “the core nexus” of campus and the new master plan wants to build on that, she said.

“We want to make the campus more inviting,” she said in a telephone interview. “We want to give students a great experience, in both academics and social life.”

Just as important as the construction of new buildings is the renovation of older ones and the maintenance projects that were put on hold when the economy tanked, Holler noted. And, to complete the picture, landscaping and walkways are being remade to direct foot traffic along pathways that are both practical and pleasing to the eye, she said.

The plan is to add a more village-like feel to the campus, one that makes walking pleasurable and emphasizes interactions among people over vehicular traffic through the space, she explained.

“We want to bring the dynamics of mixed-use,” she said.

Officials say the changes will draw more students to the flagship campus of the state university system. Holler said projected enrollment should rise from its current 24,300 to 27,400, with 8,000 faculty and staff.

Already in the works

Many of the projects targeted in the capital plan are already well under way. These include the $188 million, six-building complex for the Commonwealth Honors College, to be opened in fall, 2013; the $160 million Life Science Laboratories building, formerly the New Laboratory Science Building, expected to be completed in the spring; and the $91 million Academic Classroom Building, which is supposed to be ready by spring 2014.

Other projects include the $85 million Physical Sciences Building with chemistry and physics research laboratories; the $25 million Champions Center practice arena for men’s and women’s basketball teams; a $34.5 million expansion of McGuirk Alumni Stadium; $12.3 million in repairs and renovations to the Lederle Graduate Research Center.

An additional $40 million is proposed for renovations — and expansion — at the Isenberg School of Management. UMass officials are hoping to bring in $24 million of that cost through private fundraising.

There are also proposals to replace two buildings, Hills and Bartlett halls, with new buildings that tally up at $25.8 million and $50 million, respectively.

More than $100 million is earmarked for renovations to revitalize Lederle Graduate Research Center, Morrill Science Complex, Dubois Library, Goessman Laboratory, numerous residence halls and other buildings.

The spending plan, which extends through June 30, 2017, continues an investment of $2.4 billion in the campus over the last decade. UMass President Robert L. Caret has said there is a correlation between the quality of the facilities and quality of students’ experience and achievement.

“Our ability to attract and retain top-notch faculty, conduct world-class research, and improve the economic environment of the commonwealth through public-private collaborations and innovations rests with our ability to have the infrastructure in place that allows all of these efforts to take place,” Caret said.

The five-year plan covers 249 projects, including 10 projects totaling $43.3 million new to this year’s capital plan.

Major infrastructure projects include the central campus and University Drive infrastructure projects. Renovation and modernization projects will correct deferred maintenance deficiencies in Marks Meadow, Paige, Hampshire Dining Commons, Lincoln Campus Center Concourse, Goodell and various residence halls.

State funds help

The state has pledged $100 million towards the new Life Science Laboratories, $65 million towards the new Academic Classroom Building, $40 million to the Morrill Science Center and additional money for future work at the Lederle Graduate Research Center, Holler said.

In contrast, while UMass spent $1.13 billion on construction, renovation and maintenance projects from 2004 to 2012, the state kicked in only $105 million.

“That’s a very small percentage,” she said. She maintains that Gov. Deval Patrick “has recognized that higher education has not received its fair share of funding over the last few years.”

Even the creation of the master plan, which the state agreed to fund at $2 million, wound up unfunded, cut the day UMass officials inked a pact to go forward with the plan.

“There was a little bit of panic when the state withdrew its funding. We went from $2 million to zero,” Holler said.

But rather than scrap the plan, campus officials pushed forward, revamped the plan and eventually secured $500,000 in state funds to get expert advice on engineering, construction and other vital information, she said.

“Essentially, we accomplished the master plan in-house, with some help from consultants. Everybody rolled up their sleeves,” she said.

“And we did it within 18 months.” That was only the beginning, Holler said. A major component of implementing the plan was seeking the buy-in of various town-and-gown constituents — everyone from nearby Amherst residents and municipal officials to on-campus faculty, staff and students.

“We held more than 200 master plan events,” she said. “We got a lot of input and we used their input.”

Still, the master plan is a guide and not meant to be a hard-and-fast blueprint of how UMass will proceed, Holler said.

Advances in technology, possible impediments to proposed construction or other unanticipated issues could lead to changes, she said.

“Even though we have a master plan with a 50-year outlook, it’s not cast in stone,” she said. “It’s principles are very broad. You want, and need, flexibility.”

Etta Walsh can be reached at


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy