Butler University’s quarter-billion dollar construction boom: A look at what’s happening

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Butler University is undergoing a nearly $250 million campus transformation, resulting in massive new structures and opportunities for local architects, contractors and suppliers.

Messer Construction is construction manager for the $45 million, five-story Lacy School of Business, described as the cornerstone of the private university’s construction boom, Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) reports.

“My vision at the beginning was to gain national prominence,” IBJ quoted president James Danko as saying. “There was too much Midwestern modesty with Butler, and we need high aspirations.”

Upcoming renovations to Holcomb and Gallahue academic hall, with a new building linking the existing structures, have been budgeted at $95 million and will expand the university’s science program.

The published report also says Butler has partnered with Austin, Texas-based American Campus Communities to build Fairview House, as well as the 640-bed Irvington House, under construction on land used for the demolished Schwitzer Hall at the south end of the campus.

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You can view a live feed of the Irvington House project, nearing completion, here

American Campus Communities financed the $86 million cost of the two student-living projects in exchange for a share of the revenue.

Butler’s trustees had considered renovating Schwitzer and Ross halls, at a total cost of $50 million. However Danko recommended replacing at least one of them (Schwitzer for now) and shifting construction costs to American Campus Communities. That way, Butler could preserve capital for more core educational uses, he said.

“Turn student housing over to the experts, just like we do food services,” Danko said. “Let people who know what they’re doing do it.”

Learn more about the Butler’s construction projects, schedules and contacts at the university’s Campus Construction webpage.

In addition, Butler has purchased for Christian Theological Seminary’s buildings and land (40 acres) for $20 million, providing space for future growth.

The 104,000 sq. ft. Lacy School of Business, which broke ground in June 2017, is scheduled to open in 2019. (A $25 million gift from longtime Indianapolis business executive Andre Lacy earned the naming school’s naming rights with a $25 million gift before his death).

“It’s a forward-looking interior with a lot of glass and a ton of transparency,” said Jeff Olson, an associate principal at CSO Architects. “Instead of being compartmentalized, it’s a really open space to encourage collaboration and interaction.”

The university also reports about a project to introduce flood control measures in Holcomb Gardens. The project, commissioned by the US Army Corps of Engineers, includes a flood wall, multi-modal pathway, and pathway lighting. Those elements will likely be constructed and installed later this coming summer or fall.

The flood wall erected in the gardens will connect to, and ultimately complete, a flood levee system that extends north and east along the White River to Broad Ripple, the university says. Upon completion, the Indianapolis North Flood Damage Reduction Project will protect approximately 2,400 Midtown Indianapolis properties currently residing in a 100-year floodplain.

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