WOOSTER, Ohio — With more than two dozen facility projects approved or under construction, the agricultural campuses at Ohio State University are taking on a new look.
Projects are underway at the main campus in Columbus, at the Wooster campus and at locations across the state — in an effort to modernize facilities and keep them relevant for today’s students and faculty.
More than $100 million is earmarked for new buildings and renovations, the largest construction effort within the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences in decades. But those leading the project say it’s more than brick and mortar, especially given the diversity and complexity of modern agricultural research.
Graham Cochran, associate dean for operations, said facilities being built range from traditional classroom buildings to laboratories, greenhouses and outdoor research environments, like livestock barns and crop fields.
One of the highlights of the Wooster campus, with a groundbreaking planned for April or May, is the $33.5 million Wooster Science Building. This massive, 60,000 square foot building will be located near the front of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center property, serving as a centerpiece for the existing college’s Agricultural Technical Institute, and the OARDC.
The Wooster Science Building will include an entomology research unit, laboratories, multi-function space, a bug zoo and a cafe and patio — intended to serve both undergraduate and graduate students.
“This is really the first building on this campus that becomes, in my opinion, an integrated building on campus,” said Dave Benfield, associate vice president of agricultural administration, and director of the OSU Wooster campus.
Benfield said faculty and students have wanted a cafe on campus for as long as he can remember, and now it’s going to happen.
And there are other lifestyle-focused improvements happening, including a new graduate housing complex, that will provide up to 10 guest rooms, and serve as a model for future campus housing.
Benfield and Cochran said it’s important to offer students and faculty a top-notch experience, with facilities that fit their needs.
“We recruit bright graduate students, so we want to make sure we’re giving them good living space,” Benfield said.
Improvements also include a controlled environment food production and research building planned at the OSU Waterman property in Columbus, and a new, multi-species learning center, to be built on the same property.
In Wooster, a new farm operations and beef facility have been approved, at $4.3 million, and improvements have already been made to the Wooster swine facilities, and to cattle and caving and housing barns at the Eastern Ag Research Station, in Noble County.
Cochran said the new farm and livestock facilities are needed to keep pace with the changing livestock and crop industries. The way animals are raised and cared for has changed, with a focus on technology. And crop farming has also changed, with the need for buildings to house bigger equipment, he said.
“What we’ve heard from a lot of our stakeholders is ‘it’s about time,’” Cochran said.
Change doesn’t happen quickly, partly because of the cost, but also because of the planning and input required. The college’s administration is working with Facilities and Capital Planning Director Brian Hanna, as well as facility and barn managers, to design and prioritize the best solutions for now, and for the future.
Benfield and Cochran said it’s a process of give-and-take, not everyone gets everything they want, but that the project is being guided by the same set of goals, with similar expectations. The main goal is preparing students for careers in the ag and environmental sciences — something they say they can do better with buildings that are more in-line with industry standards.
“It’s very critical that the industry gets involved in this,” Benfield said. “What we’re doing is for their benefit.”
The projects are being funded through OSU capital improvement funds, the Ohio Legislature, donations and private industry support.
Benfield and Cochran said they’re hoping the new facilities will expose more students, including those who might not come from a farming background, to career opportunities in food and agriculture.
The $35 million Controlled Environment Food Production Research Center, approved for the Waterman property in Columbus, will provide state-of-the art indoor growing space and food research. The $5.4 million Waterman Multispecies Animal Learning Center will include an indoor livestock arena, with seating for students or for special events.
Benfield and Cochran said the Waterman property is unique, because it allows the university to market ag careers in one of the country’s largest cities, and in a convenient place where plant research, animals, and people can coexist.
“We need to continue to do a better job of getting young people that aren’t coming from rural areas and aren’t coming from farm backgrounds, interested in agriculture,” Benfield said. “We can do a better job of that with first-class facilities.”
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List of projects (values rounded):
Projects completed since 2017:
• Howlett Hall and ag administration labs, classrooms and offices (Columbus) $3.4 million
• Ag Engineering roof replacement (Columbus) $2 million
• Selby Greenhouse improvements (Wooster) $1.6 million
• ATI Greenhouse replacement (Wooster) $1.5 million
Eastern Ag Research Station cattle calving/housing barns (statewide) $750,000
- ATI residence hall demolition (Wooster) $527,000
- ATI construction and landscape lab (Wooster) $519,000
- 4-H Center fifth floor buildout (Columbus) $411,000
- GDAL swine gestation, farrowing and nursery facilities (Wooster) $387,000
- Distance learning classrooms (Wooster) ($235,000)
- Research Services conference room (Wooster) $215,000
- Miscellaneous projects under $200k $3.6 million
Total completed: $15 million
Active projects as of October 2018:
- Waterman Controlled Environment Food Production Research (Columbus) $35 million
- Science Building (Wooster) $33.5 million
- Waterman Kunz-Brundige Franklin County Extension Building (Columbus) $5.5 million
- Waterman Multispecies Animal Learning Center (Design only, Columbus) $5.4 million
- Farm Operations Building and Beef Facility (Wooster) $4.3 million
- Williams Hall HVAC (Wooster) $3.6 million
- Stone Lab Research Lab Improvements and Equipment (Lake Erie) $2.7 million
- Secrest Welcome Center (Wooster) $2 million
- 2017 tornado recovery (Wooster) $1.2 million
- Parking replacement/improvements (Wooster) $1 million
- Waterman chemical storage and handling facility (Columbus) $1 million
- Agricultural Administration Restroom Improvements (Columbus) $821,000
- Agricultural Administration Auditorium (Columbus) $800,000
- Selby Hall Cabling (Wooster) $750,000
- Graduate housing (Wooster) $708,000
- Campus identification (Wooster) $500,000
- Pounden Hall Research Lab (Wooster) $400,000
- Agronomy/Lindsey Soybean & Small Grain
- Research Program Relocation $350,000
- Rough accumulation of projects under $200k: $2.38 million
Total active projects today: $102 million
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