Campus News

UB Council updated on capital projects, funding

Aerial view of south campus

UB's comprehensive physical plan calls for the South Campus to become a center for professional and graduate education. Photo: Douglas Levere

By SUE WUETCHER

Published March 7, 2018

“We try to look at projects that are a combination of doing some large infrastructure renewal that has a lot of impact on the campus and also takes care of deferred maintenance at the same time.”
Laura Hubbard, vice president
Finance and Administration

The UB Council received an update on UB’s capital needs — and how the university plans to address those needs — at its first meeting of the spring semester on Monday.

Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration, took council members through a PowerPoint presentation outlining UB’s strategic initiatives and the current and future outlook for state funding.

The “touchstone” for UB’s strategic initiatives always comes back to the comprehensive physical plan, Hubbard told council members, which she said is defined by five guiding principles:

·         Create a downtown campus by moving the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. “We can put a checkmark by that one now,” Hubbard said, noting that “there’s still more to happen downtown.”

·         Revitalize the South Campus as a center for professional and graduate education.

·         Reorganize the North Campus as the center for undergraduates and research.

·         Improve the campus life experience at all three campuses.

·         Reduce deferred maintenance and address infrastructure needs.

UB has $277 million in “aspirations” for the South Campus, Hubbard said, including the renovation of Parker and Townsend halls for the School of Social Work, which would move from the North Campus; construction of a new building for the Graduate School of Education; and rehabbing the areas now vacant with the move of the Jacobs School downtown to accommodate the space needs of UB’s health sciences schools.

The aspirations for the North Campus come in at just under $400 million, Hubbard said. Among those projects are the renovation of lab space in Cooke-Hochstetter that was once occupied by the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, a new building for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a student recreation and wellness center.

But Hubbard said UB received only $55.4 million in capital funding from SUNY in 2017 — a figure that includes slightly less than $18 million for critical maintenance, which can only be used on existing facilities; an unrestricted lump sum allocation of $11.5 million; and an additional $26.2 million in lump sum funding for critical maintenance.

Looking to 2018, Hubbard expects UB to receive the same amount in critical maintenance, and potentially an additional lump sum for critical maintenance. “Based on what we’re hearing from SUNY, we would potentially get just under $38 million, so we’d be in the same place we are now,” she told council members.

Hubbard noted that several years ago UB’s critical maintenance funding hovered around $60 million, and the university also received capital funding for strategic initiatives. That number is now down to between $18 million and $55 million — it’s hovered around $20 million the past few years, she said. “So it makes it very challenging just to keep up with our critical maintenance needs, not to mention trying to move forward on our strategic initiatives as well,” she said.

Hubbard explained UB’s strategy in determining which critical maintenance projects to pursue. With the current $18 million in critical maintenance funding, just under $14 million goes toward different critical maintenance categories that are prioritized every year. Then the remaining $4 million is added to the lump sum “and we try to look at projects that are a combination of doing some large infrastructure renewal that has a lot of impact on the campus,” she said, “and also takes care of deferred maintenance at the same time.” Projects completed under this approach include Silverman Library and 1Capen, Hubbard added. “That’s a way of trying to move forward with some of our strategic initiatives in smaller pieces.”

What is UB doing with the $55 million in funding received in 2017? Current South Campus projects include exterior work and interior demolition in Townsend Hall; planning for renovations in Parker, Crosby and Clark halls; and design of the vacated medical school space.

On the North Campus, construction is ongoing in Cooke-Hochstetter, sidewalks are being replaced and landscaping installed along Putnam Way, and planning and design are underway for the Global Café, the latest phase in the Heart of the Campus project.

Without the lump sum funding, Hubbard said, “it would bring to a halt a lot of the larger projects” that are being done by combining lump sum and critical maintenance money.

Regarding the state of deferred maintenance, she said costs across the three campuses are currently at about $500 million. “Frankly, we’re not alone,” she said, noting that many colleges and universities are facing the same challenges. “You have aging infrastructure — and a lot of it and a lot of work to be done.

“We’re trying to do the best that we can,” she said, “to balance how much money we put into addressing these needs while trying to move forward with our strategic initiatives.”