Campus got a lot of big upgrades over the summer

August 31, 2022

Facilities teams were working hard to complete major projects in the University Center, Social Sciences Building, Fieldhouse and more. As usual, they’re making us look great.

A postcardlike shot of someone relaxing in the new yellow Adirondack chairs near Chancellor's Pond in late summer.
New Adirondack chairs outside Chancellor's Pond and the University Center are among the many upgrades campus got this summer. Photo by Sarah Tuxbury

A lot of folks think of summer as the “slow” time on the UM-Dearborn campus. For the facilities teams, it’s anything but. The smaller on-campus population gives them a chance to tackle larger projects that would create a bit too much noise and dust during the heart of the academic year. Given the short summer break, Executive Director for Facilities Operations Carol Glick says it’s always a bit of a hustle — a challenge they typically confront with meticulous planning and tight scheduling of contractors and subcontractors. Unsurprisingly, however, supply chain chaos and labor shortages caused a few hiccups this year. Take office furniture, for example: You probably never considered that it’s not all just sitting in some IKEA-like warehouse somewhere. UM-Dearborn’s Interior Designer Catherine McPherson says most office furniture is custom made, and manufacturers only order their materials, like upholstery, once a customer finalizes an order. When they receive those orders, not only are manufacturers discovering unexpected shortages of just about everything, in one case, the university’s furniture supplier had to completely switch factories. Project Manager Emily Hamilton ran into a similar snag on the major flood mitigation system she’s working on at the Fieldhouse. For big infrastructure projects, the facilities teams generally order critical supplies months in advance. Hamilton and the contractor closely watched lead times for the typical critical items, like pumps and generators, but they didn’t anticipate that the actual sewer pipe — a common material that you can expect is always in stock — would have a 12-week lead time.

Even with these challenges, our facilities teams checked off a bunch of to-dos over the summer. Glick says the recently renamed James C. Renick University Center has been a major priority for the past year, and the work is really starting to show. Back in April, they completed a transformation of the old student organization space into the new Wolverine Commons, a lounge area on the second floor for hanging out and studying between classes. Now, the main floor is getting a makeover. The new maize-and-blue paint refresh in the dining area, now nearing completion, is the most dramatic change. Next up, McPherson says they’ll be laying down new tile, which is also inspired by the U-M color palette. In addition, they’ll be removing the booths to make room for larger-format, moveable table seating for student group work. And you may have already noticed the big new Block M on the outside of the building, which seems to be becoming a favorite spot for student selfies.

Along with Architect Kal Haddad, McPherson also worked on a similar visual transformation of the first floor lobby of the Social Sciences Building. That area has been refreshed with new carpet and vinyl hardwood flooring that accentuates the unique circular interior architecture. There’s also new paint, lighting and furniture — which makes it a much cozier space for students to hang out and work between classes.

The facilities teams also tackled some major infrastructure projects, the largest of which is that aforementioned stormwater mitigation system at the Fieldhouse. Back in June 2021, a huge storm dumped more than 6 inches of rain in 24 hours on the UM-Dearborn campus, leading to flooding in several buildings. The Fieldhouse saw some of the worst of it: Set well below grade, the hardwood gym floor was completely ruined. Glick says when they were planning the restoration of this space, they decided not just to replace the flooring, but vastly improve the stormwater system so they wouldn’t risk a repeat catastrophe. “Standard design is for a 10-year storm. In the last eight years on our campus, we have seen three 100-year storms,” Glick says. “The first one, I thought, that’s a bummer. The second one, that’s a coincidence. The third one, I thought, this is the new normal. So the new system is designed to handle a 500-year storm, and we’re adding flood barriers on top of that at the exterior doors.” While this interior space is being renovated, they’re taking the opportunity to replace the roof above the gym and paint the previously orange roof trusses a more U-M color. Another cool detail: The new maple hardwood gym floor will be manufactured in the Upper Peninsula.

The other major infrastructure project that kicked off this summer is the campus LED lighting project which we teased a few months ago. Since we first announced that, it’s actually grown in scale. Now, campus will see $830,000 worth of lighting upgrades across 12 campus buildings. Once complete, it’s expected to save the university more than $100,000 annually on its energy bills and help us reach our carbon neutrality goals. The lighting retrofit in the Mardigian Library and Computer and Information Science Building is now underway and will continue across campus this fall. 

Aside from these major projects, facilities teams also tackled dozens of smaller upgrades. Here are the best of the rest:

  • Six new Adirondack chairs were installed around Chancellor’s Pond, with six more at the University Center.
  • Now no longer serving as the vaccine clinic, Kochoff Hall got some upgrades to its AV setup, including new projectors and an improved AV control system.
  • The Office of TRIO Programs, which helps low-income individuals, first-gen students, and people with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to college, got a new space in Fairlane Center North.
  • Landscape and Grounds Manager Stephen Bernard expanded the new grounds management strategy that leaves more long grass and reduces that need for mowing. The grounds team also planted 30 new hardwood trees.
  • Exterior brick work was completed at the HPEC building, including a rebuild of its signature arch.
  • The CASL Digital Arts classroom got all new computers and other technology.
  • The women’s ice hockey team locker room got a refresh, with new paint, plumbing, and a new TV. New lockers are also expected in September.
  • Repaving at the North Entrance to campus was completed — in time for the first day of classes!


Story by Lou Blouin. Want to express your appreciation to the facilities teams for all their hard work this summer? Send Director Carol Glick a note at [email protected].