After finishing Meredith Hall construction this year, Drake University is beginning and altering current construction and renovation projects.
“Two factors are driving that delay,” Chief Administration Officer Venessa Macro said. “The first is the cost of materials has increased significantly since this idea first came to the table, and it turned into a big financial project. Number two is [that] interest rates have increased.”
At the time of previous coverage, plans included an expanded bookstore, a food venue, a studio theater and a gallery. The building would have also had a performing arts venue.
John Smith, vice president for university advancement, said the question of whether or not the University Center would happen would have an “unknown answer in terms of what’s the scale of impact.”
According to Marco, the University plans to focus on renovating Morehouse before shifting attention to renovating Olmsted. These renovations would be smaller in scale than the plans for the University Center. According to Smith, the Morehouse renovation will be funded through philanthropic gifts.
Since the residence life and student life offices will be moved to Morehouse, Smith said that both will still be strengthening each other.
“The vision for the Olmsted Center and the University Center project is best captured in the current footprint of Starbucks to be able to create open spaces and gathering spaces,” Smith said.
Macro added that Starbucks will be available during the renovation process.
“We still envision that Starbucks will be in the location that it is,” Macro said. “There’s some beautiful things that we do not want to lose.”
Macro envisioned for these Olmsted renovations “cozy furniture” the Bulldog Shop and Starbucks, but Macro said that the University plans to ask students what they want.
According to Smith, Drake is in conversations with donors about shifting funds to Morehouse or to other projects. Others are allowing Drake to “park” their gifts for a period until they make a further decision.
“We’ve been very fortunate that our donors, like our campus community, have demonstrated a generosity of spirit of being flexible with their gifts and high interest in Morehouse,” Smith said.
According to Macro, the plans for Morehouse Hall, the future Student Center, have not changed since previous The Times-Delphic reporting. Macro hopes to begin renovations in early 2024 and finish in early 2025.
“Drake really will benefit from having a very student-centered space, a place for touchdown space,” Macro said. “We see in Olmsted how those spaces are used well.”
In a recent Faculty Senate meeting, President Marty Martin said that Morehouse is a $16.2 million construction project, of which the University has raised $11 million. Martin expects the project to be fully funded through donors.
Nov. 16 is the Morehouse construction kickoff, a ceremonial function celebrating the beginning of the construction. Donors will attend, and Student Body President Ruwayda Egal, Director of Student Leadership Programs Kristin Economos and Martin will give speeches.
“I’m really proud of the Morehouse project in particular because I think that has been a strong effort on the part of student leadership and our team,” Macro said.
Smith said that the new Morehouse Student Center will be a stopping point on campus tours where students can see student activities.
“I think every prospective student wants to be able to come to a community and see themselves,” Smith said.
Fine Arts Center
Last summer, Drake renovated the Schloss Lounge on the second floor of the Fine Arts Center. Recently, staff finished renovations on the roof and basement and updated technology in Monroe Hall.
Gesine Gerhard, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, drives this fundraising by talking to philanthropists interested in Drake’s fine arts programming.
“The goal is the whole building, but right now we’re [renovating] it space by space,” Gerhard said.
Over winter break, Gerhard says there are plans to renovate three of the most used classrooms in FAC: rooms 336, 204 and 304. Gerhard said that these renovations are driven by student concerns.
“We look at data, we hear from faculty [and] students and we have a list of ongoing concerns,” Gerhard said.
Gerhard named a student survey from last spring as an example of addressing feedback.
In the future, Gerhard plans to renovate the practice rooms and update the seating in Coleman Theatre. The practice rooms would have films to protect pianos from the hot sun, and the pianos themselves would be updated.
“I do think this is a great space, but it needs some improvements,” Gerhard said.
Gerhard also has the aspirational goal of building a performing arts hall outside of FAC.
“I hope students will know [that] I know [fine arts] is a priority for the University,” Gerhard said. “This is a priority for me.”
According to Macro, there are no current plans for a renovation or reconstruction of Ross Hall.
“We continue to want to develop a project that would meet what our twin goals really are as we look at the periphery of campus,” Macro said.
She said those twin goals are to focus on the existing vibrant neighborhood and to enhance student amenities.
Inside the new Mediacom Stadium, there is a building that Macro calls the “Northwest Building” that needs internal finishing so the soccer players can use it as lockers. Smith said that the University is looking for a donation for the building, citing it as an opportunity to name the building after somebody.
Smith hopes that, with these construction projects, students feel part of something bigger — something that will affect generations of students to come.
“I hope that [students] can appreciate, as the construction begins, that it is going to be part of the next generations of Drake,” Smith said. “That’s why we put the banners out. That’s why we have the big names on buildings — to bring a sense of awareness of the culture of philanthropy at the institution.”