Why the University of Minn. wants to renovate Northrop


AlexiusHoratius via Wikimedia Commons

It’s not the outside that’s the problem

If you didn’t catch Tim Post’s MPR piece on the planned renovation of Northrop, here’s a link to the Web story and the audio.

It’s a huge undertaking — $80 million — especially considering the U’s budget problems.

The planned change is dramatic, the way Post describes it:

The 4,800-seat auditorium would shrink by half. That will make room for several departments, like the honors program, to set up offices in the building. It would also create study space for students, enough to double the amount of public study space on campus.

Overhauling its aging innards sounds like a daunting task. What might be even more daunting: finding a way to make it relevant to student life, according to Post’s report.

Students and faculty have little reason to go into Northrop. (Rosenstone) said it’s a like a rock in a stream, everyone goes around the building on their way to someplace else. In fact, Northrop is used less than 100 days a year.

  • wbgleason

    Here's my comment from the post that also appeared on the Daily site:

    What Oscar Mayer, what absolute and total baloney.

    “If they don't renovate and remake Northrop Auditorium now, university officials claim they'll have to shut it down, and the rarely used auditorium could turn into a boarded up building that won't be used at all.”

    Rarely used?

    From the U of M Directory:

    Steven J Rosenstone
    Appointment: VP Scholarly/Cultural Affairs
    Scholarly/Cultural Affairs, VP (office: Suite 109 NMA)
    UMN Twin Cities
    Email Address:
    Internet ID: rosen060
    Office Address: Suite 109 NMA
    84 Church St N E
    Minneapolis, MN 55455

    NMA = Northrop Memorial Auditorium!

    And where, exactly, have events like dance performance, graduations, great conversations, Dylan concerts, etc. been held for the last several years? Has the university been concerned about the safety of all these people over the years?

    And of course the cultural czar (excuse me Vice President) has a staff and where, exactly, do they hang out? Is VP Rosenstone concerned for his life and that of his staff in this purportedly unsafe environment?

    So, if we don't get our way, we'll board it up? We'll stamp our feet and hold our breath? Grow up, gentleman.

    We all know that the U of M recently applied to have the Mall District, including Nothrop, added to the National Registry of Historic places. This is a bluff, pure and simple, and a despicable attempt by the Morrill Hall Gang at more unnecessary empire building. Boarded up? Mr. President and cultural czar Rosenstone, could we get real for a minute, please?

    This is an absolutely absurd position on the part of the Morrill Hall Gang.

    For some background, please see my blog post on the Strib: Trainwreck at Northrop Auditorium


    I have been trying, for at least six months, to get the Morrill Hall Gang to admit that if what they say is true, Northrop should be closed by now.

    Of course they won't do this, despite what the cultural czar is on the record as having said:

    “Northrop is egregiously out of code and life-safety requirements” but the man responsible for building code enforcement at the U, Mervyn Larson, claims “there are no critical life safety issues that would force us to close the building at this time.”

    It's very simple. Either Northrop is out of code and they should close it, or it isn't and they should quit making noises about boarding it up or turning it into a parking garage.

    Which is it, gentleman?

    What should be done?

    Get Northrop up to code, if it is indeed out of code.

    And let's have the code inspection be done by an unbiased outsider. Right now the university, apparently, has sole discretion over code enforcement, i.e. they make the decision. Is this credible?

    But please, please, please…

    Look into the spending of $80 mil and what it implies. They want to gut the building and build a new kingdom for the cultural czar. This has an implied cost of a lot more than $80 mil.

    For examples of some of the crapspeak that has been used as justification:

    “The University is very concerned about the fragility of the building. Northrop is egregiously out of compliance with code and life-safety requirements and code officials could close the building at any time.”

    –Simply put, this is baloney. The university is responsible for code enforcement because of the Vatican city state like status of the U.-

    “Engaging the people of Minnesota with the world’s leading public figures and change-makers who will challenge us to consider and engage in the most pressing issues of our time.”

    –Gag me with a stick. And we can't even get more than 40 people together to discuss the future of our university with the president?–

    “The convening place where the greatest minds in the world routinely share innovative ideas and creative work.”

    “Using new technologies to provide a global platform to engage leaders from around the world and connect the University with global audiences.”

    “… the reconfigured facility will be a physical embodiment of the University’s “Transforming the U” and “Driven to Discover” initiatives.”

    “Further, stewardship of this existing University resource through renovation demonstrates a commitment to sustainability, the identity and history of the institution, and fiscal responsibility. [sic]”

    “It will serve students and faculty and become [sic] an icon for the University in its mission to become a world-renowned institution.”

    “The reconfigured Northrop will advance the University’s goal of recruiting extraordinary students and ensure their retention and timely completion of degrees.”

    “The convening place where the greatest minds in the world routinely share innovative ideas and creative work.”

    “Using new technologies to provide a global platform to engage leaders from around the world and connect the University with global audiences.”

    This re-engineering of Northrop at this time is simply wrong. It is ego balm for the soul of the Morrill Hall gang and a kingdom for the cultural czar.

    A lame duck administration should not be allowed to do this at the same time that we are going over a financial cliff, especially since the President and many members of the Morrill Hall Gang will not be around to suffer the consequences.

    Could the Morrill Hall Gang for once be honest about what is going on here?

    Is it going to be business as usual in Morrill Hall, or are we going to reset our priorities?

    Bill Gleason, U of M alum (1973) and faculty member

  • wbgleason

    From another comment on Post's article re-printed on Daily Site:

    I agree 100% will Bill Gleason and praise his assessment of the administration. This project is total crap. I agree that northrop needs some renovation and perhaps some changes, but 80 million. No way. The worst part is that the administration wants to make the auditorium 1/2 as big. So in the end we get a smaller, ugly, and totally un-usable auditorium but the administration gets to pat its own back for doing something. The auditorium is a cultural and architectural gem and our heritage should not be allowed to be plundered and destroyed. In the end we will have to spend 500 million 20 years from now to undo the damage caused by this administration. Remember Coffman, whose idea was it to “renovate” that building in the 1970's. What about Memorial Stadium, how much did that cost us to rebuild. This renovation is a mistake… plain and simple.

    Nick Crawford, U of M alum (2003)

  • wbgleason

    Working (hopefully) link to my post on the Star Tribune Community Voices:

    Trainwreck at University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium

    July 5, 2010