$81M Northrop Facelift Approved By U of M Board

The University of Minnesota's Board of Regents has OK'ed the multi-million dollar renovation, which includes a restored auditorium and expanded space for academics.

The iconic Northrop building on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis will receive an $81 million overhaul, and construction will begin later this month.

The university's Board of Regents gave a final approval for the financing package on Friday. The $80.8 million project is funded in part by Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds-which are allocated through a state bonding bill to help institutions pay for maintenance and preservation of existing facilities. Other money will come from private donations and university funds.

The building closed on Monday and will reopen in fall 2013. University spokesman Preston Smith said on Friday that the renovation will include “significant structural changes.” The university restored the building's exterior in 2006, so the majority of the changes will be made to the interior, although a small addition will be made to the rear of the building to provide a larger workspace around the stage.

“A concerted effort has been made to preserve the Northrop's historic elements while updating the building to be technologically capable for the next century,” Smith wrote in an e-mail to Twin Cities Business.

The renovation includes a restored auditorium, including updated sight lines and technologies in the 2,800-seat hall, as well as a cafe and coffee bar.

The renovation also calls for a 50 percent increase in academic space. The new “public study and technology-rich, collaborative space” will house the University Honors Program, The Institute for Advanced Study, and a lab where faculty and industry professionals will convene to bring solutions to the market.

“Built nearly a century ago, Northrop is one of the most enduring symbols of the University of Minnesota,” University President Robert Bruininks said in a statement. “But the reality has become that most of our students set foot in it once at convocation and once at commencement, with no real need to go there in between. This plan is about much, much more than improving the performance space-it's about making Northrop into the academic and cultural center of this institution.”