Construction of Schoenecker Center, the University of Saint Thomas’ $100 million STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) building, is well underway, with the goal of opening in early 2024. The Macalester-Groveland Community Council’s Housing and Land Use Committee heard an update on the project from university officials on June 22.
The four-story, 130,000-square-foot structure going up at 2260 Summit Ave. will be faced with Kasota stone in the same Collegiate Gothic architectural style as other campus buildings. The new center will be linked to the school’s Frey Science and Engineering Center with a glass-enclosed connection, and will flank a south quad area with terraces, improved bicycle parking and other amenities.
“We’ve made quite a bit of progress,” said Jim Brummer, UST vice president for facilities management. The design-build team is led by McGough Construction and BWBR and RAMSA architects.
Construction fences are up, tower cranes are in place and excavation work is well underway. According to Brummer, no surprises were found during excavation. “We had no buried treasure and no buried bodies,” he said.
“We’ve made quite a bit of progress,” said Jim Brummer, UST vice president for facilities management.
Work on the footings and foundation will begin this summer, and the building will begin taking shape after structural steel arrives in September. Construction will continue through 2023, and classes are expected to start in fall 2024.
Grand Avenue leading into the south campus closed in June to allow for tunnel connections beneath the campus street to the west. Traffic restrictions are also in place on southbound Cretin Avenue. Brummer said the goal is to restore full access by August 15.
The STEAM building is named after Gary and Barbara Schoenecker, who have provided numerous scholarships and financial support for physical campus improvements over the years.
Brummer said the intent is to have the new building meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold standards to save energy, control exterior light pollution, retain rainwater and groundwater for irrigation, and encourage the use of bicycles and electric vehicles.
One issue raised on June 22 was the prospect of noise from the building’s mechanical systems. Brummer said UST officials are aware of complaints generated by other campus structures and are already planning ways to mitigate noise.
The Schoenecker site has a number of old oak trees along Summit, which UST is working to preserve. Outside of the building’s footprint, work was done to save as many trees as possible, Brummer said, and the trees that had to be cut down will be replaced.
Schoenecker is being built on the former site of a parking lot and the 127-year-old Loras Hall, which was torn down in 2021. The demolition of Loras was controversial since it was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, whose extensive work includes the state Capitol. Brummer said parts of Loras were saved and will be used inside Schoenecker in an exhibit that recognizes the building’s history and Gilbert’s contributions.
UST officials have said the STEAM building will allow the university to better serve existing programs and new areas of study. The building will house everything from science labs and engineering bays to musical performance halls and art galleries. It will also include Saint Thomas’ Centers for Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Water Justice, an emerging media newsroom, and robotics labs.
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