Construction should begin on Montana State University Billings' new science building July 1, the university said Thursday.
The Yellowstone Science & Allied Health Building should be completed by January 2021, according to architect Mike Dowling of Dowling Studio Architects, in a presentation on the MSUB campus Thursday.
“We thought since this presentation was going to be happening on Pi Day we would surprise you all," Dowling joked. “We’ve redesigned the building, and it’s now based on a big circle."
The building still needs a final review from the state, as well as an internal review process, and then contractors need to be found. After that, construction can begin, he said.
The three-story project will renovate the old science building, which was built in 1947, and add a greenhouse and new labs to the new brand new half of the building.
The building should hold the science disciplines as well as the allied health discipline under one roof, although specifics of who goes where are still being decided, Chancellor Dan Edelman said.
Construction will begin on the new addition first, and once completed renovations on the old building will begin, Dowling said.
That way students and faculty who will continue to use the old building can transfer to the new half while the existing building gets renovated. Juggling where students and faculty go throughout the project has been most complicated aspect, Dowling said.
The other strategy was to try to renovate the old building during the summer when classes are smaller and easier to move around.
“That is a constantly evolving process, and ultimately once we have the general contractor on board we’ll sit down with him and finalize a plan that works for everyone,” Dowling said.
The old building won’t be completely rebuilt or renovated, although anything “nearing the end of its life” will be replaced, Dowling said.
The building has taken a long time to be realized because of struggles to fund the project. The Montana Legislature approved $10 million in funding but required the Montana State University Billings Foundation to come up with an addition $5 million in 2014 before that money was awarded.
The MSUB Foundation met that fundraising goal in August 2018, and the Montana Board of Regents approved the building in September, the same day a ceremonial groundbreaking of the new building took place.
Authorization of the building by the Board of Regents allowed the school to access $2.1 million in student fees to finish funding the project.
The community also raised $200,000 after Edelman "challenged" the community, he said. That included a brick campaign — allowing people to buy engraved bricks to be used in the building. Edelman pledged to match $15,000 in donations. He contributed $16,000 of his own money, he said.
The Billings Gazette reported in September that the total project cost was $17.1 million, including the $5 million from the MSUB Foundation, $10 million from the state, and $2.1 million from student fees.
Edelman hopes the new building will work toward his goal of increasing enrollment to 6,000 students in five years.
“The state-of-the-art facilities will attract more students and provide a learning environment that they need,” he said.