Classroom buildings vie for million-dollar upgrades

Memorial Hall could see $6 million in renovations.

Will Wright

Of all the buildings on campus needing renovation, Physical Plant Division workers said the Chemistry-Physics Building ranks near the top.

Physics professor Alfred Shapere said some rooms are too hot while others are too cold. Black particles fall from ceiling vents and float down onto students’ desks while fans from the heating and cooling system create a constant buzzing background noise.

UK’s hub for physics and chemistry, constructed in 1962, is one of the campus buildings that could see renovations in the next two years. In addition to other classroom buildings and the hospital, the Wildcat Coal Lodge, the residence hall for the men’s basketball team, could get a maximum of $21 million for renovations and expansions.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget gave UK permission to spend millions expanding and renovating buildings over the next two years. UK must ask the state for clearance before spending more than $600,000 cash on any project.

But just because a building has permission to be renovated, it does not mean UK will actually find the money to finish the project.

The Chemistry-Physics Building and the Taylor Education Building could each receive $10.5 million, but other classroom buildings — including Lafferty Hall, Grehan Journalism Building and Kastle Hall — were left out completely.

Director of UK’s Physical Plant Division Kevin Kreide said UK has between $500 million and $1 billion in renovation projects that cannot be completed because of a lack of funding.

UK allots about $6 million every year — $4 million for the academic campus and $2 million for the medical campus — to spend on this backlog of projects, according to Kreide.

Blanton said the university is seeking $125 million from the state, which UK would match, to renovate and restore buildings in the campus core.

That $250 million was not included in Bevin’s budget.

“That would bring these old buildings up to new building standards,” Kreide said.

Without that money, or without millions of dollars from some other source, UK will be continuously behind on maintenance.

If UK were to continue spending just $4 million renovating campus every year, Kreide said it would take more than 100 years to complete the long list of projects.

But the number of buildings that need fixing is continuously growing, and each project can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Many buildings, especially in the center of campus, are becoming old, and thus more difficult to maintain.

“We keep them running the best we can,” Kreide said.

Blanton said renovating UK’s older classroom buildings is one of the university’s top priorities.

Though the $250 million for renovations did not make it to Bevin’s budget, Blanton said administrators will continue working with legislators and the governor to move the renovation projects forward.

“Projects like that are important,” Blanton said. “We’ll be talking with the legislators and governor in a cooperative spirit.”