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First milestone reached for Science and Health Sciences Building project

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: This is a rendering of the proposed Science and Health Sciences Building that would be built on the site of the present Katharine Thomas and Putnam residence halls on UW-Eau Claire's lower campus.

The first major design milestone for the proposed new Science and Health Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has been achieved with completion of a predesign and programming study.

A new Science and Health Sciences Building to replace Phillips Hall (upper left) will be constructed on the site of the Putnam (bottom right) and Katharine Thomas (second from bottom right) residence halls on UW-Eau Claire's lower campus.

A new Science and Health Sciences Building to replace Phillips Hall (upper left) will be constructed on the site of the Putnam (bottom right) and Katharine Thomas (second from bottom right) residence halls on UW-Eau Claire's lower campus.

The study for the building that would replace the aging Phillips Hall was submitted to the state Department of Administration this month by Madison architectural firm Potter Lawson and global engineering firm HOK. The firms worked closely with UW-Eau Claire’s Science and Health Sciences Building Committee, campus leaders and UW System officials.

“Thanks to our partners at the UW System administration and the state Division of Facilities Development, as well as our great architect/engineer team, this campus is one step closer to replacing Phillips Hall,” says Grace Crickette, vice chancellor for finance and administration at UW-Eau Claire. “I remain impressed by the time, energy and commitment of our campus building committee to this project — in the midst of a year of unrelenting challenges, this group never wavered and never missed a deadline.”

The predesign study shows the proposed building on lower campus can accommodate all necessary departments and be constructed within the estimated budget. The estimated cost of constructing a building and razing Phillips Hall is $256 million.

Two lower campus residence halls — Katharine Thomas and Putnam — would be demolished and the new science building would be constructed on the site next to Vicki Lord Larson Hall and McIntyre Library.

Phillips Hall is deteriorating and inadequate for existing and future academic demand, UW-Eau Claire officials say.

Phillips Hall opened in 1963 and an addition was completed in 1968.

Phillips Hall opened in 1963 and an addition was completed in 1968.

The university’s only science facility, Phillips Hall was built in 1963 when the institution, then known as Wisconsin State College at Eau Claire, had 3,187 students. Today, nearly 11,000 attend UW-Eau Claire and about 5,600 students take foundational science courses and conduct research in Phillips Hall each academic year.

“This building will transform UW-Eau Claire’s academic enterprise and allow us to do significantly more with the powerful partnerships already formed with our science and health sciences programs,” says Chancellor James Schmidt. “Every student at UW-Eau Claire will take at least one class in this building, and, whether you’re a first-year Blugold or a middle-schooler visiting campus, this building will be an engaging, exciting coalescence of learning, research and wonder.”

Building project history

In 2018, the UW System Board of Regents recommended enumerating funds in two consecutive state budgets for the building project.

The first phase total of $109 million included $93.25 million in the 2019-21 biennial state budget, $13.7 million from Mayo Clinic Health System philanthropy and about $2 million in campus funds. 

The Mayo Clinic funds will help fund 10,000 square feet of laboratory space dedicated to its research partnership with UW-Eau Claire, a partnership announced in 2017. The campus funds will be used to prepare the construction site.

The second phase of funding, totaling $147 million, still must be approved in a state budget before construction can begin.

Collaborative environment

The new building will be designed to promote student-faculty collaboration for teaching and research, with university partners Mayo Clinic Health System and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and hundreds of other businesses and organizations.

UW-Eau Claire’s new state-of-the-art science building also will support the growth of multidisciplinary programs such as materials science and biomedical engineering.

“Designing a laboratory facility that can endure for more than 50 years is no small task, but the faculty, staff and students on our campus building committee really stepped up to the challenge,” says Dr. Michael Carney, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and chair of the campus building committee. “Their creativity and focus solved problems presented by the design team and will have an enduring positive impact on this university.”

What’s next?

The next step in the project, the preliminary design phase, is planned to start this fall. Demolition may begin in 2022, with construction to start in spring 2023 if the second phase of funding is included in the 2021-23 state budget. UW-Eau Claire’s plan is for the building to open in 2025.

More details about the project are available here.