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Cross Champions New UWM Chemistry Building

Building outmoded, UW System president says. Evers also backs $130 million project.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Mar 15th, 2019 11:29 am
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North facade of the proposed UWM Chemistry Building. Rendering by Community Design Solutions.

North facade of the proposed UWM Chemistry Building. Rendering by Community Design Solutions.

University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross stopped by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s aging chemistry building Wednesday to express his support for the governor’s plan to replace it with a new $129.5 million facility.

Gov. Tony Evers unveiled a capital budget last week that called for $2.5 billion in new building projects around the state. The plan includes more than $1 billion projects throughout the UW System.

One of the larger system projects is to replace UW-Milwaukee’s 46-year-old chemistry building with a new academic and research chemistry and bio-chemistry facility south of the existing building connected to the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Center. Doing so would allow for the future connection of a new and replaced engineering building.

“If we’re going to build Wisconsin’s economy for tomorrow, we can’t just keep kicking this thing down the road today,” Cross said. “You can’t run a modern chemistry class from your kitchen. This looks like the chemistry class that I was in in the 1960s.”

Cross told a group of faculty and students that Wisconsin does not have a “skills gap” problem, rather a people problem. He said training and retaining people is critical to the state’s economy.

“We need buildings like this to make that happen,” Cross said. “If you are going to teach modern chemistry, which is fundamental to every STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degree we offer, this is not conducive to do that.”

Amanda Nieman, a fifth year biochemistry graduate student at UW-Milwaukee, said often times research is delayed because of ventilation issues in the current building.

Nieman is currently working on an asthma and pain project looking at how specific brain receptors could be targeted to reduce inflammation.

“(The aging building) slows down the work we are doing,” Nieman said. “Having a state-of-the-art building could give the research the jumpstart it needs.”

Current facility conditions limit the capacity of chemistry courses and 40 percent of all freshmen take a chemistry course during their first semester.

More than 60 percent of the UW System buildings are between 45 and 70 years old, Cross said. Replacing the chemistry buildings is one of Cross’ top priorities.

If the capital budget request is approved, construction would begin in April 2023 with a completion date expected in June 2025.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Ray Cross Makes Pitch For New UW-Milwaukee Chemistry Building was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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