Spring start for GIE construction

(Photo from Physical Resources – WLU)

The school of business and economics and the department of math at Wilfrid Laurier University may finally see some progress on the Global Innovation Exchange (GIE) building this spring.

With offers for contractor bids starting in Jan. 2013, Laurier hopes to have construction begin in March once the contractor is chosen — if all goes to plan. The building, which was originally slated for a Sept. 2014 opening, is projected to open in the spring of 2015.

“We’re still on track for that completion date. The thing is now, once the bids come in, we need to be on budget,” explained Mark Dettweiler, director: planning, design and construction at Laurier. “If we are, things will just roll ahead. If we’re not, then maybe a bit of time to sort of have to make some adjustments.”

Dettweiler noted that he is confident that the school will stay on budget and the building will achieve its spring 2015 target. The university has been in discussion with various companies that are looking to takeover the project in the spring.

“Certainly there’s a lot of awareness out there in the industry, this is a large project,” he added.

The construction costs for the GIE are $72 million, with a project price tag around $103 million, according to the WLU website. The Ontario provincial government agreed to a $72.6 million investment in the GIE in June 2011. These payments will be made on a reimbursement basis.

One the few changes to the project was the addition of a new atrium as a student hub in the building instead of an outdoor courtyard. Gary Nower, assistant vice-president: physical resources at Laurier, noted that this change was due to study space concerns.

“There was a shortage of student space [on campus],” said Nower. “[The GIE will be] a place to hang out, work together, just socialize — stuff like that. This is a great opportunity, so why not close that courtyard and make it a more usable space.”

Although a separate project, a pedestrian bridge is also to be built over University Avenue to connect the main parts of campus to the GIE. The GIE building will be built with this taken into consideration, but there is no timeline on when that bridge will be constructed.

But Dettweiler mentioned that there are still more challenges with the GIE.

“I have a concern in regards to some groundwater issues that we may have to deal with,” explained Dettweiler. “It’s always a little bit challenging to know for sure what you’ll be up against until you actually start digging.”

As a result, these shallow ground water concerns will have to be dealt with before construction begins in March.

“Every project is a challenge, right? There’s always something that pops up that was unexpected,” echoed Nower.

In terms of fundraising, Rob Donelson, vice-president: alumni relations and development, asserted that Laurier has completed 15 per cent of its $55-million fundraising goal.

This fundraising will go to capital expenditures and programming for the SBE faculty.

“We’re in the process of working with these individuals and companies, we’re hoping to confirm several more gifts in the new year,” he said.

While the SBE and the math department get a new home, questions have arisen to what faculty will use the space in the existing Peters Building and Schlegel Centre, with much speculation being placed on the arts faculty.

“The classrooms will remain classrooms. But we are just now starting into a process to basically plan out and allocate space in that building,” said Dettweiler.

“It’s still open up to discussion.”

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