McNichols Renovation Project focuses on efficiency, sustainability and state-of-the-art facilities

February 27, 2020
Rendering of the updated Student Union.

University of Detroit Mercy announces its first major investment following the close of its most successful fundraising campaign ever, which raised nearly $115 million. This major renovation project will significantly change the University’s McNichols Campus, which has served as an anchor in northwest Detroit. This project will also reposition the 143-year-old institution for the future and serve as a model of efficiency and sustainability for peer institutions in U.S. cities.

The multi-year, multi-million-dollar renovation project will begin in July with a renovation and expansion of the Student Union, followed by the eventual demolition of the University’s aging Fisher Administration Center and Reno Hall.

In addition to upgrades to academic buildings, administrative space and residence halls, the multi-phase plan includes new on-campus student apartments, greenspace on newly acquired land and a Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning, among other projects.

The McNichols Campus renovation project will enhance the quality of life and business development potential in the Livernois and Six Mile neighborhoods, which is consistent with Detroit Mercy’s role in the Live6 Alliance. Live6 is a partnership with residents, The Kresge Foundation and city of Detroit that works to advance neighborhood and business redevelopment efforts in the community.

When complete, nearly every building on campus will have been renovated or updated. Even more importantly, this initiative will eliminate 100,000 square feet of building space and reduce the institution’s deferred maintenance costs by more than $43 million, as well as improve overall efficiency and sustainability through reduced maintenance costs and facility usage.

The renovations are the result of the University’s master plan, which is focused on improving student satisfaction with the campus, attracting and retaining more students and using University resources wisely.

“We were looking at two things when developing this plan,” said Tammy Batcheller, associate vice president for Facilities Management & Campus Services. “We wanted to ensure that everything we did would be sustainable and that we be fiscally responsible for today and the future.”

Detroit Mercy’s Facilities Management Division continues to work on current projects designed to enhance the physical environment of the University while also increasing efficiency in places where teaching and learning occur.

Funding for this work will come from three sources: bonds, loans and private donations. The University plans to borrow 45% of the funding and take advantage of low interest rate loans. Detroit Mercy will also raise a significant amount of funding to support this renovation project through fundraising efforts.

On Dec. 31, 2019, the University concluded its Build a Boundless Future Campaign. Supporters contributed nearly $115 million to this record-breaking campaign, which gives institutional leadership confidence that future fundraising efforts will prove successful.

“Detroit Mercy has experienced tremendous growth and success over the past several years and exceeding our campaign goal increases the confidence we have to take the University to another level of excellence,” said Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D., president of Detroit Mercy. “The enhancements planned for the McNichols Campus will make the University even more attractive to high-achieving students who want a Jesuit- and Mercy-inspired education, as well as an opportunity to apply their learning to community needs in a city as culturally rich and diverse as Detroit.” 

The McNichols Campus renovation takes place at an exceptional time for Detroit Mercy. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” edition elevated Detroit Mercy in classification and ranked it among the top 200 national universities in the United States. In addition, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) 2020 Times Higher Education (THE) ranked Detroit Mercy among the top 20% of all U.S. institutions and the highest-ranking private university in Michigan. This past fall, the College of Business Administration ranked No. 1 in the nation for its first-time pass rate of accounting graduates who took the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam in 2019, as reported by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). 

The following is a brief summary of first phase projects scheduled in the McNichols Campus renovation project.


The Student Union

Renovation plans for the Student Union, built in 1955 and expanded in 1970, will once again place the facility at the center of student life on campus.

Unused and obsolete square footage will become the new home for all student-centered services from admissions to financial aid to student life offices. The new Student Union will offer a one-stop-shop for students and their families as they consider a Detroit Mercy education; University Ministry offices will undergo expansion; and the bookstore will move to newly renovated space in the building.

Glass walls will brighten up the building and provide great views of the campus and a dynamic new outdoor plaza for studying or gathering.  An indoor refreshment station, with study pods and a game area, will be a place where students can hang out between classes.

Construction is scheduled to begin in July 2020 with Phase 1 completion by fall 2021.

The Fisher Administration Center

The 50,000-square-foot Gunnar Birkerts-designed building was officially dedicated in September 1966 and is one of the tallest buildings on campus, with views that extend blocks away. It houses most of the University’s administrative departments, including the President’s Office. In 2003, the American Institute of Architects honored the building for its “architectural design of enduring significance.”

However, critical maintenance issues would cost more than the expense of tearing it down, Batcheller explained. The University expects to move services and departments from Fisher to the new Student Union and other under-utilized space on campus.

A future demolition date will be set once offices are relocated after the Student Union renovation.

Reno Hall

Batcheller said Reno is one of the most inefficient buildings on campus. The plan calls for demolishing the building and replacing it with newly constructed student apartments designed for upperclassmen and graduate students. These apartments will provide the conveniences and benefits of campus life as students complete their degree.

Built in 1954 as a residence hall, the building is currently home to several academic programs, the University’s counseling and psychology clinics and the international student offices, all of which will be moved to other space on campus.

Other projects

The University recently purchased vacant land abutting the south end of campus behind Shiple Hall. Plans for this space include an intramural sports field and potential gathering spaces where the University community can relax and enjoy the outdoors.

The University will establish a website for campus updates in the near future.

“This project will enhance our McNichols Campus and attract high-achieving students to our University, while at the same time help support the economic and redevelopment efforts taking place in our community,” Garibaldi said. “We hope other urban communities throughout the country view our success as a model that can be replicated and help spur enrollment growth.”