Manchester University / Alumni / @manchester Newsletter December 2021 / Board votes to raze Administration Building

Board votes to raze Administration Building

Note: President Dave McFadden sent this message to alumni and friends as an Inside MU email on Friday, Nov. 12:

Board votes to raze Administration Building, pay tribute to its legacy

I am writing to share with you that the Board of Trustees, at the recommendation of the administration, has decided to raze the Administration Building on the North Manchester campus.

The decision was emotionally difficult, and made with deep sadness. In fact, the Board of Trustees has wrestled with this decision – in some form or fashion – over the course of three decades. It was seriously considered first in the early 1990s, when Oakwood and Helman halls were built to replace two older residence halls. In 2009, the board actually voted to replace the Administration Building with a smaller, more functional building as part of the Students First! campaign – but, given evolving needs, it was decided that using a $5.4 million gift from the late Herb Chinworth ‘42c to build the Lockie and Augustus Chinworth Center would better serve students.

Before making this decision, the administration and board considered a number of alternatives, including the possibility of adapting the Administration Building into student housing and affordable community housing. However, contractors estimated the renovation costs to be over $7.5 million – well beyond the resources we have available to invest in the building. If we had moved forward with that option, those costs ultimately would have been borne by current and future students (which the board and administration did not feel right doing). 

Various options are explained in more detail in the Frequently Asked Questions, which follows this note.

This decision is wistful for some, and painful for many. The Administration Building has served generations of Manchester students since the first cornerstone was laid in 1889, in what was originally Bumgerdner Hall on the east end and, eventually, connected to the Bible School building (erected in 1895) on the west end by the center section (built in 1920).   

Manchester alumni, colleagues and friends have vivid and deeply personal memories of the building. When the Manchester Chime bells were removed earlier this year, a 1954 graduate reminisced to me about taking art and music classes on the third floor. Others remember climbing the well-worn steps to take business, accounting, modern language and other classes on the third floor. Students across generations spent hours together in the Peace Studies lounge or visiting faculty on the second floor. And countless administrative staff and faculty worked out of offices on the first floor and basement.

Over the years, the building was home to many academic programs and hundreds of faculty and staff. But, although it has remained standing, the building’s wear and tear has caught up to the times. In recent years, academic offices, classrooms and student services offices were moved to the Academic Center and the Chinworth Center. For a bit of time, about 40 administrative colleagues continued working on the first floor and in the basement – but those individuals eventually were moved to other buildings in 2019 after bricks began falling from the façade and a major leak was discovered in the roof.

For more than 100 years, the Administration Building has served Manchester well, and we don’t want to lose its history or its meaning. In the coming months, alumni, students, colleagues and friends will have opportunities to reminisce, share stories and celebrate the people and programs that breathed life into the building. We will make those memories accessible on our website and will hold an event before the building comes down to honor and celebrate its legacy, just as we did when the old gymnasium and auditorium was taken down.

I hope you can hear in this message the deep reverence and sorrow felt by the Board of Trustees and the administration in having to make this decision. Although it was made with heavy hearts, the decision was made to ensure our ability to continue investing in student learning, keeping Manchester affordable, and being good stewards of Manchester’s financial sustainability for future generations.

You may send your questions and comments to president@manchester.edu, and I will answer as quickly as I can.

Dave

Dave sig

Dave McFadden ’82
President



Frequently Asked Questions:

Why are we razing the Administration Building?

In exploring options to try to save the Administration Building, contractors estimated renovation costs to be over $7.5 million – well beyond the resources we have available to invest in the building. If we had moved forward with that option, those costs ultimately would have been borne by current and future students, which the Board of Trustees and administration did not feel right in doing, especially given our other needs and responsibilities to keep Manchester affordable for our students, investing in student learning, and being good stewards of Manchester’s financial sustainability for future generations.

What options were considered for saving the building?

The administration conducted an exhaustive review of alternatives over the past 18 months. Just since June 2020, at least five engineering firms or developers have looked at the building and estimated what it would take to restore it. We explored gutting the interior to create student-only housing, and mixed-use housing within the shell. We explored working with an outside developer experienced in restoring historic buildings, developers experienced in affordable community housing, and undertaking the project ourselves.

Each option had significant, long-term financial impacts, including increased housing costs for students, increased debt and debt service, and increased operating expenses. Those financial impacts would be borne ultimately by both students and colleagues. 

We explored renovating the Administration Building for student housing, and found it would have been the most expensive housing option on campus. Most of our students are already hard pressed to pay for on-campus housing, and we believe few would be able or willing to pay the higher price. We are mindful of the sacrifices that they and their families make to attend college.

We found that, if a developer renovated the building for another purpose, revenue from operating the building would go to the developer. If we had pursued tax credits, the credits would have gone to the project’s donors and investors, not Manchester. We still would be responsible for managing and populating the building. In other words, someone else would get the financial benefits, but the University would still have significant physical and financial responsibility for the building.

We also explored other alternatives such as government grants, but those programs typically come with significant use restrictions and are too small to represent much savings for Manchester.

How much would it cost to renovate the building?

The historical organization Indiana Landmarks connected us with Core Development, a redevelopment group with expertise in historic renovations. Core estimated the cost of renovating the building for student housing to be $7.5 million, with $3.5 million coming from Core, $1 million from historic tax credits, and $3 million from Manchester-solicited donations and investments. This estimate did not include renovating Wampler Auditorium or doing significant renovation of the basement.

In this scenario, Manchester would remain liable for operating, populating and maintaining the building. We also explored undertaking the renovations on our own through new debt. With that scenario, current and future MU students would pay for that debt. Specifically, every MU undergraduate student for the next 10 years would need to pay an additional $1,200 in order for Manchester to save the building. Most would never live in the building.  It is not fair to put that burden on them. We want their dollars to pay for their education and student experiences.

Can we raise the funds needed to renovate it?

Very unlikely. We study our donors’ financial capacity and have spoken with many of them about their philanthropic interests, and we know that most prioritize supporting Manchester students in their pursuit of a college education. Any funds we might raise for a renovation project would almost certainly reduce what we could raise for other priorities such as student scholarships, investing in academic programs and more pressing capital projects in buildings on the North Manchester campus used by students. 

Did the building deteriorate because Manchester didn’t take care of it?

We took care of it as best we could, but many of the problems are structural, stemming from its construction more than a century ago. There is asbestos in the building and lead in old paint. There is no central ventilation system for heating and cooling. We have had issues with mold, the flat roof and radon. Mice, chipmunks and bats were frequent visitors. As one engineer noted, the building has major structural issues that have likely been issues for half a century.

Have you explored razing the middle section and keeping the east and west wings?

We have, and experts in historical restoration tell us that the historical significance of the structure is the building in its entirety. Engineers tell us that because the buildings have been combined for so long that they likely have settled together and cannot be separated without compromising the structural integrity of what remains.

In other words, removing the center could in turn create significant re-engineering costs to preserve the remaining two sections.

Can we mothball the building?

“Mothballing” refers to taking a building out of service but preserving it enough to prevent further deterioration, possibly for future use. The roof would need to be repaired and the façade needs to be secured. We also would need to maintain a certain airflow in the building, which does not have ductwork or a centralized HVAC system. In short, mothballing would be expensive.

Indiana Landmarks indicated interest in covering those costs, and a willingness to fundraise from its donors to cover the costs of mothballing the building. Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to mothball the building was not about cost, but about seeing a realistic future use for the building. Based on the alternatives explored, we didn’t see any viable options over the next five to 10 years and concluded that mothballing would just delay the decision to tear it down at an even higher cost and place that burden on those who follow us.

What will go in its place?

For now, we will plant grass and maintain the area as a green space featuring mature oak trees and the beloved fountain as its focal point. The fountain will be repaired as part of this project. Should future needs arise, the open area could be used to construct another building, as well.

How much will it cost to raze the building?

We have a bid to raze it now for $550,000. Delaying the decision will only make it more expensive down the road.

When is the building coming down?

The exact timing will be determined by the contractor, but almost certainly before the end of summer 2022.

How will Manchester honor the history of the Administration Building, and can we salvage its more historic pieces?

We will celebrate the building and its service in a variety of ways.

Plans are in the works to have an in-person and livestreamed memorial event to celebrate our memories of the building, say farewell and honor its role over the years. We also invite alumni and others to send their memories about the building to president@manchester.edu.

We will save what is feasible – including potential ways to incorporate elements of the building or a memorial plaque in the new Chime Tower.

Can alumni purchase bricks when the building is razed?

Our plan is to place bricks at an accessible location on campus so that people can come get them as mementos. For those living further away, we will provide a way to purchase bricks for the cost of shipping. More details regarding this option will be shared in the coming weeks.

Is this one more example of how Manchester is becoming less like the Manchester that we know?

We understand how it might feel that way to some. But, Manchester is not a building or collection of buildings. Manchester is the people – the people who changed our lives and broadened our horizons, the people who remain lifelong friends.

Several people who love the Administration Building recently shared that what they value most about the building were the people who taught and worked there. Manchester has replaced many buildings over the years to better serve students and be good stewards of resources. This decision was made with the same goals in mind.

Manchester presents itself to the world through our mission, our values, and our belief in the infinite worth of every individual. We are reflected through our graduates of ability and conviction and the many ways they make the world a better place. That is our essence, and it endures over time.