UB downsizes construction plans for campuses

Second UB Council meeting discusses revised Five-Year Capital Plan

The Spectrum

UB is more than $500 million short of what it needs to finish its original construction and renovation plans across all three campuses.

The university has hit its spending cap for capital projects and recently presented a new plan with revised expenditures.

The original Five-Year Capital Plan allocated $404 million for projects on North Campus, $136 million for South Campus and $24 million for the downtown campus. It also had already allocated $375 million for the new School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“There’s a queue actually that’s much larger than [UB] can pay,” said President Satish Tripathi of the university’s pending projects at Monday's UB Council meeting.

Now the university is approaching the construction costs “year to year,” rather than on a five-year plan.

The Debt Reform Act of 2000 restricts the amount of money SUNY schools can spend per year. Because of this, UB is now planning on spending less money to accommodate the spending cap.

In the 2014 fiscal year, for example, UB received $49 million from SUNY, but was only allowed to spend $23.5 million of that given amount. UB received no funding in 2013, but the unused money from each year is rolled over to the next.

“We’ve taken small amounts of our critical maintenance money and put it toward small projects that are part of those larger capital projects to keep us moving forward toward our longer-term plan,” Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration, said in an email.

Hubbard presented the revised plan to the UB Council Monday in its second meeting of the year.

The adjusted amounts now include $26.4 million for North Campus and $14.6 million for South Campus. There are no funds for the downtown campus in the adjusted budget, but the medical school is still expected finish by late 2016 or early 2017. UB didn’t adjust the more than $300 million allocated to the medical campus.

Hubbard said the adjusted plan does not include the demolition of the Cary-Farber-Sherman complex, the current medical school. Demolition of certain buildings is the “ultimate goal” because it is more cost-effective than renovation, she said.

“Unfortunately, often one has to renovate those spaces to make them more usable,” Hubbard said. “We’re looking at ways we can do that with smaller amounts of money.”

UB is still planning on moving the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Work to South Campus once the medical schools have moved downtown.

About $13 million out of the $26.4 million for North Campus is going toward the Heart of the Campus project. This project plans to renovate Norton Hall, Talbert hall and Capen Hall as well as to create spaces “designed as a continuous environment in support of the discovery process,” according to its website.

Other current construction projects include the $25 million renovation of Haynes Hall and the demolition of the Buffalo Materials Research Center, which was used to house nuclear reactors from 1960-94. All radioactive waste was removed in 2005.

Hubbard told the council the university will try to reestablish the five-year plan, as well as update plans for North and South Campus projects.

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