Liberal Arts renovation delayed until May

Northern Arizona University President John Haeger announced today the delay of the renovation of the Liberal Arts building. Initially slated to begin in January, the Liberal Arts project has been postponed until at least May.

The Liberal Arts project is part of the state’s Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development. The SPEED legislation, approved in June, authorizes NAU to spend $170 million in building renewal and new construction.

The SPEED projects require review by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Capital Review prior to the expenditure of funds. The JCCR met last week for an informational hearing on the first proposed issuance of SPEED projects at all three public universities. Some members of the committee have expressed concern about proceeding with the SPEED projects at the universities because state revenues are behind projections. Discussions about timing and how to proceed with planned projects are ongoing.

“The university was at an immediate decision point in terms of leasing portable classrooms so that we could close the Liberal Arts building and start work in January,” Haeger explained. “And since we do not want to close the after the start of the spring semester, we decided to delay starting the project until May.

“The intention of SPEED is to help boost Arizona’s sagging economy by stimulating the state’s construction industry.” Haeger continued. “The sooner we can move forward, the sooner we can anticipate some positive economic influence in the state.” He also expressed concern that construction costs will go up over time, thus increasing project costs and reducing what can be accomplished with the identified funds.

Liberal Arts is one of several SPEED projects at NAU totaling $80 million that were identified as high priority because the renovations would address fire, life and safety issues, including electrical, mechanical and plumbing issues as well as fire alarm replacement and fire sprinkler installation.

In addition to the building renewal projects, NAU also plans to use $90 million of the SPEED funding to construct a new health professions building and additional classrooms.

The timelines for NAU’s other SPEED projects currently remain unchanged.

The SPEED legislation authorized $1 billion in financing authority for capital projects at the three state universities. The legislation stipulates that $470 million be allocated for the Phoenix Biomedical Campus and that $20 million be allocated for the Arizona State University School of Construction. The three universities then each receive $170 million in financing authority. Arizona Lottery revenues will fund 80 percent of the SPEED debt service, and the universities will pay 20 percent.