Northrop Auditorium "is in trouble," the University of Minnesota Board of Regents heard Thursday, and a grand redesign will add revenue and cost less than a basic fix.
University officials are proposing an $80 million plan to make Northrop "a bustling, dynamic place for collaboration, study and conversation, central to everyday life on campus."
In addition to creating a smaller performance space with improved sightlines and acoustics, the building would house honors program offices, classrooms and study areas.
Right now, the building, built in 1929, is used about 100 days a year, including for commencement ceremonies.
With its aged, dysfunctional systems, "Northrop is clearly living on borrowed time," U President Robert Bruininks said Thursday. Although at first Bruininks thought that just updating those systems "was the best idea since sliced bread," he said he's now in favor of a larger renovation. The full board took no action Thursday.
On his blog, Prof. Bill Gleason questioned the project's cost and whether it's wise to go with an expanded plan.
"I fully support getting Northrop up to code," he said, but "this is far from a renovation that brings Northrop into code compliance, and it is fiscally irresponsible under the present circumstances."
Officials said the larger remodel would cost $20 million less than bringing the building into compliance. About $20 million of the $80 million price tag would come from the state. Bruininks will bring forward a plan to finance the project at a future meeting.
If the regents approve the plan, a renovated Northrop could open in fall 2013.