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NDSU proposal will increase school's downtown presence

North Dakota State University's downtown presence will grow from 400 students to 4,000 by the fall of 2008 under plans unveiled Thursday. President Joseph Chapman announced renovation plans for the two downtown buildings the NDSU Development Foun...

North Dakota State University's downtown presence will grow from 400 students to 4,000 by the fall of 2008 under plans unveiled Thursday.

President Joseph Chapman announced renovation plans for the two downtown buildings the NDSU Development Foundation has acquired - the Pioneer Mutual Life and Lincoln Mutual Life buildings.

The Pioneer building will be expanded to twice its size and house the College of Business and the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics.

The Development Foundation had been raising money to build a new College of Business on the west side of the main campus.

But locating the College of Business downtown will cost $3.5 million less and provide 11,000 more square feet than the original plans, Chapman said.

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"It allowed our business and agribusiness students to be in the heart of real world business activity," Chapman said during his annual state of the university address.

In addition to remodeling the six-story Pioneer building, NDSU will add an education wing with classrooms and offices, an atrium area and a two-story auditorium.

The project is estimated to cost $13.5 million to $14.5 million, said Jim Miller, executive director of the Development Foundation.

Architect Terry Stroh said work could begin this spring on the 12- to 14-month project.

The two-story Lincoln building will be remodeled to house studio space for architecture and landscape architecture students. That project is estimated to cost $1.5 million to$2 million, Miller said.

Plans also include a large amount of green space and walkways between the buildings to create more of a campus environment.

Fargo officials said they're excited about NDSU's plans.

"This is absolutely going to be another jewel in our crown to bring downtown back to Fargo," said Mayor Dennis Walaker.

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In August 2004, NDSU opened its first downtown facility in the Northern School Supply building at 650 NP Ave. for visual arts, architecture and landscape architecture departments. That building was donated to the university by NDSU alumnus Doug Burgum.

The Development Foundation bought the two Pioneer and Lincoln buildings from Noridian for $3.54 million.

"These buildings are rock solid," Stroh said.

Constructing a new College of Business was identified as a priority when the Development Foundation launched its $75 million Momentum fundraising campaign, Chapman said.

Initial plans called for the building to be constructed on 18th Street North.

But the cost estimate for that project escalated to nearly$18 million, rather than the $13 million originally projected, Miller said.

Moving the project downtown offered more space, better amenities and a cost savings, Chapman said.

The Development Foundation consulted with major donors who contributed$11 million toward the College of Business, and they supported the downtown concept, Miller said.

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"They felt it was the proper thing to do," Miller said.

The university is proposing to close a one-block section of a street to create more green space and make it safer for students to walk between the two buildings.

The street is between Second and Third avenues where Eighth and Ninth streets converge into one street, Stroh said.

Fargo Planning Director Jim Gilmour said he's reviewed the plans, and it would not have an impact on traffic.

NDSU senior Adam Riesen said he'd prefer to see the Agribusiness and Applied Economics Department stay on the main campus.

Unlike the current downtown building - which houses students who may spend the bulk of a day working in art studios - the Pioneer building will be full of students who may travel there for just one or two classes, Riesen said.

Catching professors during office hours and getting to class on time could become a hassle, said Riesen, an ag systems management major.

NDSU is working to get additional bus transportation to and from the downtown campus.

Downtown classes are scheduled on the half-hour, while classes on the main campus start on the hour, to accommodate extra travel time for students.

Building details

- Pioneer Mutual Life Building, 203 10th St. N.: Existing six-story building has 60,000 square feet; an addition will add 55,000 square feet with an education wing and two-story auditorium

- Lincoln Mutual Building, 711 2nd Ave. N.: About 25,000 square feet in the two-story building, which is designed to accommodate another story if NDSU wanted to expand

- NDSU's purchase includes about 165 parking spaces for faculty and staff, including a lot west of 10th Street

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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