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New STEM Center, park tower among projects OK’d by Building Commission

With state officials’ approval on Wednesday, construction is now scheduled to begin this fall on a $15 million specialized instruction center at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Meeting at Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis on Wednesday, members of the state Building Commission gave a nod to UW-Green Bay’s proposed STEM Innovation Center. But the approvals didn’t end there. Also receiving a favorable vote were $16 million worth of proposed improvements to a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee medical complex and a new lookout tower at the bustling Peninsula State Park in Door County.

As for the new STEM Center — the acronym in its name stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — Brown County officials said the project wold help the region contend with its shortage of people who are qualified for certain types of work, mostly technical in nature. The proposed three-story center, which would belong to Brown County, would house UW-Green Bay’s new mechanical engineering program and have an office, a lab and a warehouse building with 63,000 square feet of space.

“The engineering department feels like there’s a brain drain from northeast Wisconsin,” said Doug Marsh, Brown County facility engineer.

Miron Construction is the general contractor for the project, which will be built on the UW-Green Bay campus. Plans call for the work to start in September and be finished by the fall semester of 2019.

The building commission’s vote on Wednesday provides $5 million for the project. Brown County plans to kick in another $5 million and provide a $5 million bridge loan to the UW-Green Bay Foundation, which also plans to raise $5 million for the project

The project was enumerated in 2017 after more than 150 Brown County businesses sent a letter to Gov. Scott Walker expressing support for it, said Jeff Flynt, deputy county executive at Brown County. Green Bay, like much of Wisconsin, is grappling with a shortage of skilled workers — chiefly engineers and others who can perform technical work in the manufacturing industry.

“Obviously we have to look at the future of manufacturing in the region,” Flynt said. “There’s a need for engineers, there’s a need for mechanical engineering in the region.”

Phase one of UW-Milwaukee hospital renovation OK’d 

Also on Wednesday, the Building Commission approved the first phase of a $52 million renovation of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s former Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital buildings.

The first phase will consist of $16 million worth of work to the northwest quadrant of the hospital complex, which is composed of seven buildings. The plans call for exterior work to three of the seven buildings and the addition of an emergency generator to the complex.

The plans for UW-Milwaukee’s College of Health Sciences and College of Nursing call specificially for remodeling work in two buildings to provide room for new classrooms and laboratories. Bids for the project were opened in January. Work on its first phase is expected to begin in March and wrap up in December 2019.

New lookout tower for Peninsula State Park

Door County’s Peninsula State Park — one of the most-visited state parks in Wisconsin — will get a new observation tower to replace a decades-old structure that was closed down in 2016.

Work on the new $2 million, wheelchair-accessible tower is expected to begin late this year and wrap up in June 2019. The original Eagle Tower was built in 1923 and was closed in 2016 for safety reasons. The money the Building Commission approved for the project on Wednesday includes $500,000 from the federal government; $750,000 from donations from Friends of Peninsula State Park, a local advocacy group; and $750,000 from the state.

The reconstruction plans call for site work, the restoration of a stone wall built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the addition of visitor kiosks and similar improvements..

“Eagle Tower at Peninsula State Park provided grand views of our state to generations of travelers to beautiful Door County,” Walker said in a statement. “I was pleased to work with the Building Commission and Legislature to enumerate the tower reconstruction, and I commend the Friends of Peninsula State Park and local partners for generating financial support to build a new observation structure that will be visited for generations to come.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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