Photo courtesy of Baker College
Because the Oakland University William Beaumont (OUWB) School of Medicine is at risk of losing accreditation due to lack of classroom space, OU is looking to acquire Baker College of Auburn Hills to reduce the issue and remain accredited. The purchasing price would be $8.15 million, with an expected additional million in renovations and a $500,000 annual operating cost.
Baker College of Auburn Hills is located at 1500 University Drive, Auburn Hills — about a five minute drive west of campus. If purchased, the 141,245 square foot building would provide a temporary solution to OUWB’s issues, but OU as a whole would still require more classroom space.
The Office of the Provost has stated that the building consists of 59 classroom and lab spaces, a bookstore space, a large library with six reservable study rooms and two computer labs, four conference rooms, a kitchen, a student/event space, 81 offices, faculty and student lounge spaces and support rooms (CSITS, storage, public safety).
The building will also be rented out to tenants at the same time to help pay for the building. The Office of the Provost says this will not interfere with daily operations, and is rather a demonstration of strong commitment to stewardship of place and an opportunity to build community relationships.
In regards to how the tenants will utilize Baker College, the Office of the Provost said:
“Tenants at the Baker College site would rent offices and [have] access to the conference room and student center for events. The site has a suite of offices with a conference room which would allow rental of space without impacting the rest of the building utilized by students and faculty.”
Baker College would need an update to the sprinkler system in order to be up to code, which would be achievable by August 2022. OU says they have a clear picture of what Baker College will need over the next 10 years.
It is unsure who would fully occupy the building, but the new physician assistant (PA) program is being considered to launch there with full faculty, staff and students. This would be the home site, meaning the PA team would not need to travel back and forth to the main campus.
For access to the offsite campus, discussions about bringing back the Bear Bus to transport students were brought up, but there is no confirmation yet.
In addition to OUWB, the university is considering holding classes for the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the new Baker Campus during the Fall 2022 and Winter 2023 semesters. The second-floor classrooms at Varner Hall will be renovated during the time, and the Baker campus can be used for certain classes that don’t require considerable moving time.
A potential backup plan includes renovations to O’Dowd Hall — the renovations are expected to cost more for O’Dowd compared to Baker — as the Registrar’s Office would move to Wilson Hall once those renovations are completed. This would free up about 4,000 square feet and provide some relief, but not enough for additional educational or research growth.
OU has stated that the Baker project would not affect current campus projects — such as Wilson Hall and South Foundation — that are aiming to introduce more classroom space. Once Wilson Hall is completed, a temporary classroom will open in North Foundation and a classroom in Dodge Hall will open with University Technology Services going mostly remote.
The Office of the Provost said: “In order to gain more classroom spaces on campus we would either need to build a new building or renovate existing space. OU does not have unused empty space to renovate currently. Both building new space and renovating existing space is costly so a source of funding would be needed.”
Even with enrollment being down, OU still has many space issues and one way the Office of the Registrar is addressing them is scheduling hybrid classes to share rooms. OU is still going to seek new sources of enrollment to “ensure optimization of our robust cadre of programs” as enrollment is OU’s leading source of income.
“At this time, we are optimizing the schedule offerings, in number and format, to minimize the lack of classrooms having a negative impact on students. We hope that South Foundation Hall and the purchase of this additional space at the Baker College Campus will help address our classroom needs. We will still have space needs that are not met even with the purchase of Baker College Campus. Specialized spaces like research laboratories, and studio space for the visual arts etc. have been requested but we are unable to meet those with the proposed purchase.”
The Provost’s Office has been in collaboration with the Deans, Facilities Management, Finance, OUPD, UTS, CSITS, the OU Senate and its subcommittees — made up of faculty, staff and students — about the acquisition of Baker College. Tours have been provided to faculty and staff who may use the space.