Update given on new and upcoming NMU projects

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Northern Michigan University president, Fritz Erickson, gave the community an update on new and upcoming campus projects on Wednesday at NMU’s Northern Center.

These are just some of the projects that could happen at NMU in the future. For now, however, the focus is on renovating the Jacobetti Complex.

One of the main focuses of the meeting was on the renovation of the Jacobetti Complex, which is on track to begin late next year.

"It’s basically almost a 40-year-old facility that is in need of renovation. You have systems that get older and you have a lot of programs that change over time. So what we're looking at is really modernizing the facility,” said NMU Vice President of Finance and Administration, Gavin Leach.

The State of Michigan would foot 70 percent of the $28.6 million project and the university would fund the remaining 30 percent.

The renovation would decrease the size of the complex by 43,000 square feet.

"What that also does is it reduces our ongoing operating costs at the facility and future maintenance. We'll save around $250,000 a year in operating costs,” Leach said.

Leach added that the Jacobetti project is waiting for construction authorization. Once authorization is obtained and building plans are finalized, groundbreaking for the project could occur as soon as December of 2020.

Technology innovations and virtual reality use in education were also discussed at the meeting.

"The next step that we're taking that not many universities are taking is we're actually writing our own content, our own virtual environments, for students to learn a skill and where we started out is 'Project Torch’,” said NMU Vice President of Extended Learning and Community Engagement, Steve VandenAvond.

Project Torch allows students to hone their welding skills from the comfort of their own homes.

"Students will have as an immersive experience at their kitchen table in welding as they could possibly have,” VandenAvond added.

VandenAvond said these virtual reality programs are just one way NMU is becoming more accessible.

"We feel it’s our obligation to reach out to them and reach out in a way that’s meaningful and we feel our virtual reality program is going to take that next step,” he said.

Also discussed at Wednesday’s meeting included possible opportunities for the university to build a basketball arena, expand the Hedgcock building, and construct a new College of Business. Erickson added that these projects are just possibilities that are simply being “explored” at this time.

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