Board of Regents to study alternatives to HSC plan

By Holly Schubert

The underestimation of bids for Holmes Student Center tower renovations has led Board of Regents Chairman Carol Burns to suggest looking into other alternatives for the project.

The Regents had approved $1,955,000 for the rehabilitation of the tower’s exterior surface, but this appraisal proved insufficient to cover the bids submitted July 7. It was announced at the July 21 meeting that the lowest bid for the project came in at $3.2 million while the highest bid was $3.9 million.

Burns said, “We need to approach the problem more creatively and look at other options. We need to go back to the very beginning and ask a few basic questions, especially about the appropriate use of the building. The first question is: Do we want to be in the hotel business?”

Burns proposed doing a cost-benefit analysis of the tower’s current use to see if the space could be used more efficiently. However, she said this would not solve the problems on the exterior of the tower.

William Herrmann, acting director of the Holmes Student Center and director of Bond Revenue Operations, said eliminating the hotel would place the future of conferences and other meetings that would be held at the HSC in jeopardy. He said, however, he would be happy to look at the situation.

Hermann said the HSC hotel averages about 40 percent occupancy throughout the year. The busiest season is the summer when the HSC hosts numerous conferences. He said the hotel covers its own maintenance and operation.

NIU officials blame building material for the difference. The project calls for steel framing upon which stone panels would be hung, but the expense of this steel drastically exceeded what had been anticipated.

NIU has rejected all of the bids submitted July 7 and has been authorized by the Regents to redesign and rebid the project.

Ware and Associates, the architecture firm that designed the original project, has agreed to review and redesign the project with no alteration of their fee.