UST STEAM
Concept drawings of the proposed 130,000-square-foot STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) building at the University of Saint Thomas. The drawing above shows how the building could look from Summit Avenue. It would be linked to the school’s existing Frey Science and Engineering Center with a glass connection.

Plans for a new $100 million STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) building at the University of Saint Thomas are taking shape, with the goal of breaking ground in May 2022.

The Macalester-Groveland Community Council’s Housing and Land Use Committee voted on May 26 to support the preliminary schematic design for the four-story building. The UST board of trustees voted earlier in May to also support the plans. About a year of design work remains, and fundraising has passed the halfway point.

The plans will go to the Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) for review and approval before a building permit can be issued. The first virtual meeting is set for 3:30 p.m. Monday, June 14. HPC approval is required since the site lies within the Summit Avenue West Historic District.

UST officials hope to submit the project for city staff site plan review this summer. The project comes under height and setback restrictions of the campus’ conditional use permit, but is being designed so that no variances will be needed. Setbacks along Summit Avenue are a minimum of 50 feet, and building heights are a maximum of 59 feet.

STEAM education is a priority in the university’s 10-year strategic plan. Amy McDonough, chief of staff to UST president Julie Sullivan, said Saint Thomas wants to be a leader in STEAM and cross-disciplinary education. The new facility would serve existing and new areas of study.

Jim Brummer, UST vice present for facilities management who presented the preliminary plans for the new building, said it would be the university’s first new academic facility since McNeely Hall was built near Cleveland and Summit avenues in 2006.

Programs to be offered in the new building include computer, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering; art history, emerging media and music; and biology, chemistry, physics, and earth, environment and society classes.

 

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The L-shaped building would be built on a 4-acre site on Summit Avenue just west of the school’s Frey Science and Engineering Center. The property currently includes a parking lot and the former site of the 127-year-old Loras Hall, which was demolished earlier this year.

Jim Brummer, UST vice present for facilities management who presented the preliminary plans for the new building, said it would be the university’s first new academic facility since McNeely Hall was built near Cleveland and Summit avenues in 2006.

Schematic design work is almost done, Brummer said, and if all goes as planned, ground will be broken next May. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy by spring semester 2024.

The design-build team, which includes McGough Construction, RAMSA and BWBR, intends for the building to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold standards. The approximately 130,000-square-foot building would be constructed of Kasota stone in the Collegiate Gothic architecture style used in other campus facilities.

The STEAM building would include a central utility plant. The intent is for it and the buildings nearby to use a hot water heating system instead of the low-pressure steam system currently used in other campus buildings.

Throughout the building, flexible and collaborative work spaces are planned. The lower level would include a music rehearsal space that could accommodate an 80-piece orchestra.

The first floor would feature a large atrium, art gallery, cafeteria and two-story chorale performance space that could seat 150 people. Other first-floor features include a two-story engineering bay with a 20-foot crane for testing structural elements in a lab setting.

The emerging media program would occupy a big part of the second floor, with a newsroom and studios, including one for podcasting.

Robotics and more lab space would occupy the third floor, and the fourth floor would have software engineering labs for physics, biology and chemistry.

— Jane McClure

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