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Miami moves ahead on $96 million building project paused due to COVID-19

<p>This rendering of the Clinical Health Sciences facility building was created by Perkins &amp; Will, the criteria architect. Photo courtesy of Cody Powell. </p>

This rendering of the Clinical Health Sciences facility building was created by Perkins & Will, the criteria architect. Photo courtesy of Cody Powell.

Miami University will move forward on a $96 million Clinical Health Sciences (CHS) facility, as well as other previously planned construction projects, after suspending $176 million worth of construction projects due to COVID-19 in June.

Miami’s budget has two large, separate categories: the operating budget — which covers salaries, wages, materials, supplies — and the capital budget, which covers facilities and infrastructure, including the CHS project. Within the capital budget, long-term renovations are facilitated by state funds, gift funds and debt capacity, according to the university’s website. 

Cody Powell, associate vice president of facilities planning and operations, says the pausing of construction projects in the spring was largely due to cash flow concerns, as the pandemic had created financial uncertainty. 

However, in July, planning for the $96 million CHS facility was allowed to resume, with construction set to begin in January where the current Student Health Services (SHS) building resides. 

”It's a very exciting project that will be very beneficial for the students and for the community as a whole and training up people in the healthcare industry,” said Marilyn Heflin, the current capital project manager for the CHS facility.  

The plan is to temporarily move SHS to Harris Hall over winter term, but this might change depending on what the rest of the semester looks like, Powell explained. 

“We have talked about if things don’t go the way that we think they're going to, we may have to pause and make sure that we have appropriate facilities to serve the medical needs of our student population,” Powell said. 

Plans for the university’s new $50 million STEM building, which were not part of the paused construction plans in June, are also moving along.

The 82,000-square-foot building, which will reside on the former site of Swing Hall (near Withrow Hall, on Tallawanda Road), will house three departments  – mathematics, statistics, and emerging technology in business + design – as well as the Center for Analytic Data Science and the Armstrong Institute. The building is scheduled to open in 2023.

Jeffrey Wanko, co-chair of the building program planning committee, explained the purpose of the new building, which will also host classes in computer science, engineering and information systems and analytics. 

“The whole idea here is collaboration,” Wanko said. “That is really the absolute bottom line on all of this is bringing these units together to help with some different collaboration that they do or that they intend to be doing.” 

In terms of Miami’s smaller construction and projects, few are moving ahead while most remain paused for the time being. 

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Of the $176 million in renovations, around $66 million in projects have been paused. This includes the renovations to Ogden Hall/Bell Tower, Dodds Hall, King Library and University Hall (in Hamilton), as well as the Central Quad energy project.

The remaining $110 million in projects are moving forward and include the following: 

  • CHS facility at $96 million: Construction set to begin in January.

  • South Quad utility work, at $6 million: Planning to move forward in January with the CHS facility.

  • High Street medians and related work to limit pedestrian traffic, at $4.25 million: Waiting to hear status of grant; looking to begin work summer 2021.

  • Equestrian Center Indoor Arena, at $3.8 million: Moving forward, since it’s a donor-funded project. Hoping to begin construction in November and finish by spring.