Construction spending hits 10-year low for campus projects

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Lend Lease construction workers work on the Craig Parking Deck Expansion on Monday. The $36,000,000 project is expected to be completed in August 2015.

UNC is spending the lowest amount of money on construction that it has in 10 years — with the smallest number of projects under construction in 20 years.

Only 10 projects are under construction on campus — at a total value of $311.6 million.

According to a report that UNC’s Facilities Services submitted to the Chapel Hill Town Council in October, the last time the number of projects was that low was in early 1994, when only six projects were under construction.

Thirty-five other projects are currently in the designing stage, according to the report.

UNC was able to complete many construction projects before the economic crisis of 2008 hit, according to the Carolina Budget Information website. Since then, limited state appropriations and an overall decline in construction have affected many parts of the University, including building projects..

The N.C. General Assembly gave Repair and Renovation projects almost $3 million less than last year, said Janet Kelly-Scholle, director of communications and training for UNC’s Finance Division.

Masaya Konishi, associate director for Facilities Planning, said the department has not received funding from the state for new buildings in the last couple of years.

“I think that’s sort of a reflection of the state budget and the state of the economy,” he said.

Thirteen projects have been completed since January, and current projects include the expansion of Craige Parking Deck, improvements to Lenoir Hall and repairs to Kenan Stadium.

According to Kelly-Scholle, UNC has an internal process to determine which construction projects to pursue, but ultimately Chancellor Carol Folt and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean decide.

Some recent building projects have been funded through non-state and private sources.

Konishi said his department is still working on projects to improve buildings, including projects addressing safety and building deficiency issues.

“The scale of the projects are not as large as, say, some of our previous new buildings, but we are working on projects to improve the overall quality of the campus buildings,” he said.

Though the number of staff in facilities planning and construction has decreased, it is not from layoffs, Konishi said.

He credits the decrease to planned retirements and resignation of employees without replacing them.

“The decrease in staffing, I think, is a reflection of the decrease in the number of projects that we’re working on,” he said.

Konishi said that the department is using University funding to work on utility improvement projects, as well as open space projects to improve the green space, walkways and landscaping on campus.

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