Off-campus research facility to temporarily solve space shortage

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Lauren Karmo, Staff Reporter

After receiving a vote of approval from Oakland University’s Board of Trustees (BOT), the university is planning to purchase an off-campus facility located at 2817 Research Dr., Rochester Hills to expand research in the School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS). The $3.715 million facility is located four miles south of campus.

The 2016 Campus Master Plan determined an immediate need for 21,000 square feet in research space with an additional 131,000 square feet in order for the university to achieve their research goals by 2025. 

The 50,000-square-foot facility, priced at $75 per square foot before renovations, will allow for the university to fulfill some of that need. 

“I’ve been dealing with space here at the university for quite some time, and it’s been tight for a while, but it’s gotten critical,” Interim Provost Michelle Piskulich said. “Right now, we have faculty that were hired this year that are still waiting on labs, and we also have a faculty that are in the process of being hired for which we have no labs.”

The SECS faculty Piskulich is referring to will occupy the 40 labs at 2871 Research Dr. following a $10-12 million renovation. They currently reside in Dodge Hall, and their vacancy will be filled by others in departments needing research labs. 

“We would then backfill that space [in Dodge Hall] with faculty from the School of Medicine, biology, chemistry and physics, and then bioengineering,” Piskulich said. “So, these are areas where we’re expecting growth, and these labs would be very critical for our ability to continue to provide the space necessary for those faculty.”

The university had a third party company called SmithGroup appraise and create an outline for the renovations needed to 2871 Research Dr., which will increase the total cost-per-square foot to roughly $600.

“SmithGroup has concluded that with an investment of somewhere around $10-12 million, we would be able to create 40 labs, a number of offices, restrooms, collaboration space, and do a fair amount of maintenance as well — replacing the roof, securing an emergency backup generator, power upgrades, add HVAC improvements and those sorts of things,” BOT Treasurer John Beaghan said. 

Although the BOT voted to approve the purchase of the facility itself, they have not voted to approve the renovations necessary to make it functional as a research space. 

The funding for this project is coming from the same set of 2019 bonds that are funding renovations to South Foundation Hall and Wilson Hall. Because of this, the 2020 decline in student enrollment and its effect on the university’s finances will not impact this project, according to Beaghan. 

The expansion to 2871 Research Dr. will most likely be a temporary one. While the university is experiencing an immediate need for space, the cost of building on campus is much higher than the $600 per square foot provided at 2871 Research Dr. 

Once the university can foot the bill to build on campus, they will look into long-term solutions for the need for research space. 

“In the ideal world, we would build all the research space that we need on our own campus, and … we would eventually build our research buildings back on the open campus,” President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said.