University of Minnesota officials are in the mood for open houses recently. A few weeks ago they invited the media to tour Eastcliff, the official residence of U of M president Eric Kaler.
On Friday the doors swung open for the media again, this time at Northrop Auditorium, which is in the middle of an $84 million renovation.
MPR photographer Jennifer Simmonson joined me on the tour and here’s what we saw:
Northrop, built in the late 1920s, is essentially a gutted out shell at this point. Everything has been torn out; walls, ceilings, seats and floors.
As a point of reference, here’s a picture I took at graduation in the spring of 2009.
The old Northrop Auditorium could seat nearly 5,000 people. The new auditorium will be about half the size, much better for acoustics according to U of M officials.
The rest of Northrop will be filled with academic offices and study space for students.
The new Northrop is expected to open in the fall of 2013. The auditorium will open in February of 2014 and will host its first graduation in the spring of 2014.
And while most of Northrop is being gutted, the grand entryway to the building is being preserved, including the building’s light fixtures.
The outside of Northrop underwent a $15 million restoration a few years ago.
Add in the transformation of Northrop’s interior, and the U will spend nearly $100 million dollars on the project by the time it’s finished.
The work will be paid for with a mix of state dollars, private donations and money the U is borrowing.
U of M officials say in the future Northrop will be used on a daily basis by students, and have a “student center” feel about it.
In the past they say students had little reason to go inside the building. Most students took a seat there during orientation, and then again at graduation.