Swan Annex building ready for new school year, more students

Workers walk through the Swan Technical Arts Building Annex on Ferris State University’s campus and make note of some of the final touch-ups of the $30-million renovation and expansion project before students return to classes in the building for the 2018-19 academic year. (Pioneer photos/Meghan Gunther-Haas)

BIG RAPIDS — Work is wrapping up on a $30-million project at Ferris State University that officials say will provide safer lab spaces and help with program enrollment.

When Ferris State University students begin the 2018-19 academic year, they may notice the some of the changes to the Swan Technical Arts Building Annex, including larger classrooms, new equipment and technology and a few more students in lab sessions.

“This whole wing of the building was renovated and just about doubled in size,” said Associate Vice President for Physical Plant Mike Hughes during a walk through in one area of the building off the new pedestrian bridge. “The building is about the length of a football field now.”

Plans began in 2014 to expand and renovate the Swan building, which houses classrooms and work spaces for College of Engineering Technology programs such as welding, advanced manufacturing and more. Construction started in 2016, Hughes said.

To help keep costs of the renovation and expansion project, last year’s students fabricated benches, stools, ventilation boxes and more.

He credits some of the big drives for the expansion to reducing the two-year waitlist for students hoping to get into the welding engineering program and growing enrollment of the advanced manufacturing program.

“The rooms are much bigger. This allows for teaching stations for demonstrations and added technology,” he said, noting the larger lab and class spaces can accommodate more than 20 students. “The old labs were really tight and were a safety concern.”

While the overall price of the project reached $30 million, the school was only responsible for 25 percent of the costs, approximately $7.5 million. The renovation and expansion is part of a capital outlay project approved by the state of Michigan, with 75 percent, or $22.5 million, covered by the state.

Alongside state funds, FSU has been able to keep costs for the project lower thanks to approximately $3 million in donated equipment from Miller and Lincoln companies, and in-class work done by last year’s students, who fabricated benches, stools, ventilation boxes and more, Hughes said.

The students may see some minor work being done to fully complete the project, which was handled in four stages, Hughes said.

“The building was occupied while we were working,” he said. “It’s pretty complicated from a logistical standpoint to do a project of this magnitude and not interrupt classrooms during the academic year.

“We are at the point in the project when you walk through and shake your head at what all has to be done, but I am really looking forward to the students coming back and seeing their reactions to a building specially designed just for them, with state-of-the-art equipment.”

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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at mhaas@pioneergroup.com.

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