Great News! Minnesota Supports New Home for English

Governor Dayton signed the 2018 bonding bill, ensuring a renovated Pillsbury Hall. What's next?
Pillsbury Hall at sunset

After almost 50 years in Lind Hall, the Department of English has secured its own building. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on May 30 signed the legislature's 2018 bonding bill, which funds public works projects throughout the state. The bill includes $24 million for the renovation and restoration of Pillsbury Hall, the second oldest building on campus. (The remaining portion of the renovation will need to be funded by private donations.)

So . . . now what happens?

The first step will surprise no one: establishing committees. A University "Project Executive Committee" and a "Project Advisory Committee" were convened when this capital project was starting its predesign phase (a first stab at designing the renovation, understanding costs, etc.) four years ago. Members will have changed since then, but we know that CLA Dean John Coleman will serve on the Executive Committee. The Advisory Committee will include Department of English Chair Andrew Elfenbein and CLA Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities Jane Blocker.

Proposed student study space in Pillsbury Hall

This summer the project will enter the design phase, lasting about a year. There are three parts to this phase. The first is schematic design, in which the design, budget, and schedule are more clearly defined. After these schematic plans are reviewed and approved by the Board of Regents, design development begins and will probably continue through spring 2019. The final step here? Preparing and formalizing construction documents.

In fall 2019, the fun part starts: construction! Expect this work to be extensive. As Vice President of University Services Mike Berthelsen told The Minnesota Daily, “There isn’t anything in the building that doesn’t need to be addressed. It will be like a new building inside of a historic shell.” One example: the building has but one set of bathrooms.

But when do we move in? When is the big reveal? The best estimate is late spring 2021. Yes, that's three years. But after two decades of work to get to this starting point, what's 1095 days? (Not that we're counting.)

Plus, there will be celebratory moments along the way. Details to come on the groundbreaking ceremony; follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for announcements.

Proposed classroom and event space/RRTL sketch

The building is a great fit for English, finally bringing together faculty, students, and classrooms under one roof. The 6,000 University students who take English classes annually will benefit from 21st-century classrooms, literary magazine production labs, and space for our numerous public events. Pillsbury Hall will increase the visibility of English and Creative Writing, while also providing a place for student and faculty collaboration and community.

The Department of English wishes to thank Governor Dayton, the Minnesota Legislature, and all our alum and English Advisory Board advocates. Board member Paul Taylor was named the 2018 University of Minnesota Alumni Association Advocate of the Year for his tireless work advocating for the renovation of Pillsbury Hall for English. Special appreciation goes to Emerita Professors of English Shirley Garner and Madelon Sprengnether, who first envisioned English in Pillsbury Hall and have led the effort with, as CLA Dean John Coleman notes, "passion, energy, and determination."

Read more about the history of Pillsbury Hall.

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