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Water school design could exceed construction budget (VIDEO)

By Sean Ryan

A $50 million budget the state approved for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences may not be enough to pay for the entire project.

The project would add a three- or four-story, 125,000-square-foot addition to the Great Lakes Research Facility, a university building on Greenfield Avenue that abuts the Port of Milwaukee. The envisioned project also includes interior renovations to the existing research facility and exterior improvements to the overall property.

The preliminary design for the project indicates the work may cost up to $60 million, said David Miller, UW System vice president of capital planning and budget. The UW Board of Regents on Thursday approved spending $1.6 million to continue drafting plans for the project, and during that process planners will get a better idea of what the projects’s actual cost will be, he said.

“Right now it is looking like $60 million, not the $50 (million) we have,” he said. “Is it 60? We don’t know.”

The university applied for a $15 million federal grant that would bridge any potential budget gaps, Miller said. The university expects a response to its grant application by September.

“Plenty of time to know then what we are working with as we go into the design of the building,” he said.

Miller said if the university does not receive the grant, it must still design a project within the approved $50 million state budget when planning the project.

“What we would probably cut out would be interior work on the existing building,” he said.

Miller said a more-detailed design of the project will be complete around June 2011, at which time it will go back to the UW Board of Regents and State of Wisconsin Building Commission for consideration.

Beyond the work the university will pay for, the city of Milwaukee and We Energies have committed to improve the area around the Great Lakes Research Facility. The city has committed to rebuilding Greenfield Avenue into a boulevard in 2011.

We Energies, which leases land across Greenfield Avenue for a coal pile, will push the pile back away from the street and build a wall to shield it from the university property, Miller said.

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