The cramped cinder-block shack where Marla Spivak, a MacArthur genius-award recipient, conducts her research on honeybees isn't on the usual campus tour for prospective U of M students.

Nor is the fourth floor of the aging mechanical engineering building, where 21st-century scientists work with 1950s-era equipment, and, says one professor, "we're violating all kinds of codes."

But this fall, those are two of the highlights on a tour of the university's neediest buildings — part of a campaign to build support for a proposed $299 million capital request to the Legislature in 2014.

University officials have begun escorting legislators on a tour of the dark underbelly of the Twin Cities' campuses, and earlier this week they invited the news media to see just what the problems are.

"About 25 percent of our buildings are over 70 years old," said Jason Rohloff, special assistant to the president. "Imagine having your own home that's over 70 years old. You have roofs that leak, you have drafty windows … that's what we're looking to be able to [fix]."

This year, the wish list includes $232.7 million from the state, and $66 million from university donors or bond sales.

Some of the top priorities:

• $34.6 million for the mechanical engineering building, to revamp research and classroom space that hasn't been updated since it was built in 1948.

• $3 million to replace the "honey house," a one-room shack on the St. Paul campus, where Spivak conducts her nationally recognized research on bees. Spivak, who gets about $1 million a year in research grants, compares the work space to a hive. "The main thing is it's super-inefficient to work this way," she says, as stray bees buzz around stacks of honey barrels and boxes.

• Other projects include a $15 million wellness center at the Crookston campus, and $36 million for a new science and engineering building in Duluth. The 2014 Capital Request can be found at