During his first address as Marquette University’s president, Michael Lovell announced plans to partner with the Milwaukee Bucks to build an athletic and research facility on 10 acres of recently acquired land just east of campus.
Standing in the Monaghan Ballroom at Marquette’s Alumni Memorial Union in January 2015, Lovell also talked about expanding the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship to foster more startup activity, opening a Marquette office in the Global Water Center in Walker’s Point, and forming a new neighborhood improvement initiative called Near West Side Partners Inc.
For those not familiar with Lovell, Marquette’s first layman president, the bold declarations from his first address as university president might have seemed far-reaching for a guy who had been on the job for just six months. But anyone who had watched his career over the past five years knew it was possible.
“When Mike was chosen, we had just formalized our Beyond Boundaries strategic plan and we wanted someone who could fill in the gaps and execute it,” said John Ferraro, chair of the Marquette board of trustees, who also served on the hiring committee. “What we are seeing now are the things laid out a few years ago. Mike is clearly hitting his stride. He has filled in the executive team, filled in the strategic plan, and now we are seeing a real tangible output.”
During Lovell’s six months as interim chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he was able to move four major building projects forward: the School of Freshwater Sciences, the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex and the transformation of the former Columbia Hospital. As a result, Lovell was named chancellor of the school in April 2011, a post he held until being tapped in spring 2014 to lead Marquette.
And since Lovell has arrived at the Jesuit university, his momentum has not stopped. The campus is undergoing a major transformation and expansion, with several new building projects that have been completed in recent years, are under construction or are planned.
“The building projects on college campuses are necessary to make schools competitive to the students and faculty they are trying to attract,” said Lovell, a mechanical engineer by trade.
By Lovell’s side has been Lora Strigens, Marquette’s vice president for planning and strategy. The two first met when Strigens was with the Milwaukee office of HGA Architects and Engineers, working on a master plan for UWM.
Lovell hired her as associate director of planning for UWM. That was in February 2014. Lovell announced he was leaving the school for Marquette in March.
When he asked her to join him at Marquette – a job she accepted in November 2014 – she knew what she was getting into.
“I said, ‘You’ll never be bored and we’ll have fun,’” Lovell said.
Said Strigens: “There is a similar pace in the way we work and the energy of what we want to do. When I came to Marquette, I knew there would not be a lot of time for rest.”
Planning for the future
In October, a master plan for Marquette was unveiled calling for $600 million worth of building projects over the next eight to 10 years across campus.
Those projects include the $120 million Athletic Performance Research Center announced in 2015 on the east side of Marquette and several new projects on the campus’ west side, such as Innovation Alley, which includes a new business school building, a BioDiscovery District, a new wellness center and a $108 million residence hall, which is the first project to get underway.
Marquette University unveiled its Campus Master Plan in October with five key building projects worth $600 million that will be completed over the next eight to 10 years.
- A new residence hall, south of West Wells Street between North 17th and North 18th streets, $108 million.
- A new recreation and wellness center, site of the current McCormick Hall, 1530 W. Wisconsin Ave., cost undetermined.
- Innovation Alley, including new business school building, site of current Helfaer Tennis Stadium & Recreation Center, 525 N. 16th St., cost undetermined.
- BioDiscovery district, along West Clybourn Street adjacent to the existing science buildings, cost undetermined.
- Athletic Performance Research Center, 10-acre site along West Michigan Street east of I-43, $120 million.
In early November, the university broke ground on the 890-bed co-ed residence hall. The dorm, which will be named after longtime president the Rev. Robert Wild, is located on the northwest end of campus, south of West Wells Street between North 17th and North 18th streets. It will feature two resident towers connected underground.
In January, Marquette received a $10 million challenge gift from alumni Ray and Kay Eckstein toward the construction of the hall. Once $10 million is raised in matching funds, the Ecksteins will make the donation.
When the dorm is completed in August 2018, the university will raze McCormick Hall, 1530 W. Wisconsin Ave. A new recreation and wellness center will be built on that site. O’Donnell Hall, 725 N. 18th St., one of the campus’ oldest residence halls, which opened in 1950, also will close.
The master plan the university has created is dependent on sequencing. When the new recreation center is open, the Helfaer Tennis Stadium & Recreation Center, 525 N. 16th St., can be demolished for the creation of what the school is calling “Innovation Alley” along North 16th Street, between West Clybourn Street and West Wisconsin Avenue.
In October 2011, Marquette opened a new 115,000-square-foot, $50 million Engineering Hall at 1637 W. Wisconsin Ave.
A new business school will be constructed south of the building, where the Helfaer rec center now stands, which will be physically connected to the Engineering Hall.
The university plans to combine programming for business and engineering students, which is not being done anywhere else in the country. It is already generating significant interest from the local business community, which wants to partner on this concept, Lovell said.
“There is tremendous opportunity for us to bridge the gap between engineering and business and draw on corporate partners,” Lovell said. “We’ve had tremendous interest from corporate partners to co-locate in the facility.”
For the past three years, Milwaukee-based Direct Supply Inc. has hosted hackathons at Marquette’s Opus College of Engineering, taking a theme relevant to the senior living industry and challenging students to create a technology solution.
The first year, there were 77 participants. This year, there were 160 and the hackathon was expanded to include the nursing and business schools, said Tom Paprocki, director of development and innovation at Direct Supply.
“We’re very supportive of innovation in this city and we want to keep as many smart kids here as we can,” Paprocki said. “We think Marquette has awesome engineering talent and what Mike is trying to accomplish with Innovation Alley fits with our belief that the purposeful collision of disparate skills and disciplines yields creativity and innovation.”
Marquette also is considering using the upper floors of the new business building for student housing, although plans have not yet been solidified.
“There are several dominos,” Lovell said. “A lot depends on getting that first residence hall done, then taking McCormick down. We’ve identified five projects that we want to get done as quickly and efficiently as possible, but if we find the funding before the space, we might have to move some things around.”
One of those dominos is to free up space by moving people and services to different areas of campus.
In January, the university purchased a two-story office building at the southwest corner of North 13th Street and West St. Paul Avenue in the Menomonee Valley from the Forest County Potawatomi Community. The $4.4 million purchase was made to continue the long-term transformation of the campus over the next decade, Strigens said.
Marquette’s building and grounds, mail services and trucking operations will immediately move to the building and its adjoining warehouse.
“We will then continue taking time to plan and look at what support functions are best suited for the remainder of that building,” Strigens said. “When the Potawatomi developed that building, they did so with high-quality, sustainable materials, so we are very fortunate that it even became available. It’s a great building to be able to stretch into.”
As far as expanding the campus farther into the Menomonee Valley, Lovell said it is a question he and his team are asked often. The valley is south of I-94, while most of the Marquette campus is north of the freeway.
“It’s not so much needing to acquire a certain amount of anything, it’s whether it is the right fit for us and how we are trying to grow,” Strigens said. “I don’t see the campus defined by boundaries, I see ourselves as part of the city and we want to act in partnership with the city.”
Moving east, Marquette’s new BioDiscovery district will be located along West Clybourn Street, adjacent to the existing science buildings on the south central portion of campus. This area will be for the biological and biomedical sciences students, where the school’s current service building is located.
The Athletic Performance Research Center will be located east of I-43, on a 10-acre site made up of several parcels the university has acquired: the former Butch’s Old Casino Steak House property, an underused office building at 803 W. Michigan St., the Herzing University building at 525 N. Sixth St. and the Ramada Milwaukee Downtown at 633 W. Michigan St. those buildings will be demolished.
Originally, the project was going to begin this year and be completed at the same time the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena is completed in August of 2018. That timeline has been pushed back, Lovell said.
Aurora Health Care committed $40 million to the project in January 2016. Over the past year, planning efforts have focused on how Aurora and Marquette will work together on the project. That piece is complete.
Lovell said additional money has been raised for the project, but would not disclose how much. It also is unclear how the Milwaukee Bucks will be involved in the project or if the Bucks will contribute to the project financially.
“What (the Bucks) have said is they are interested in the research component and some of the new techniques and technology that we will be developing,” Lovell said. “We are negotiating with them on (lease payments for Marquette’s men’s basketball team to play in) the new arena. Those two things are happening simultaneously and I can talk more when it is finalized. It is not dependent on each other but related.”
On the site will be a 250,000- to 300,000-square-foot building with a field house and laboratories. How the remaining acres surrounding the Athletic Performance Research Center will be used also has not yet been determined.
Marquette wants to make sure the land is put to meaningful use.
“This is a very large parcel of land and a parcel of that size requires a master plan all of its own,” Strigens said. “We want to make sure to plan it right, taking time to look at the market and economic development potential. Over time we want to execute as much activity and vibrancy as possible.”
Putting the pieces together
Like every nonprofit, Marquette University has long relied on fundraising and donations to move its mission forward. Donors like the Ecksteins, with their latest $10 million gift and their $51 million gift in 2007 for the university’s new law school, make building projects possible.
But Lovell realizes implementing a $600 million building plan over the next decade will not be done with donations alone. He said each project will depend on a variety of funding sources, which could include university capital, philanthropy, corporate or private partnerships, or bonds.
The university would not comment on whether tuition will increase to pay for projects. Undergraduate tuition this year is $38,000.
“We understand that a college education is a significant investment for our students and their families, and we will continue to work to ensure that tuition will remain as low as possible,” a university spokesman said when asked if tuition would be increased to pay for building projects. “It’s important to note that we are also significantly boosting our financial aid budget – next year.”
Despite the diverse funding mix planned to pay for the building projects, Lovell still spends more than 50 percent of his time meeting with donors and the business community to bring in additional revenue to the university.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always believed the sum is so much greater than its parts, so this comes naturally,” Lovell said. “But I am an introvert, so personal fundraising is a skill I have had to develop over time.”
Ellen Gilligan, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, first met Lovell when he was selected as chancellor of UWM and she was organizing Milwaukee Succeeds, a partnership of community and business leaders working together to improve education for children.
Lovell now co-chairs the Milwaukee Succeeds committee for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.
“He is a big thinker who takes on big projects that relate to his vision,” Gilligan said. “He is really committed to the values of providing educational opportunities and success for all children, kindergarten through college, and the strategic partnerships he has made at Marquette is a further testament to that.”
Lovell believes being Marquette’s first layman president gives him a bit of an advantage because he can talk to donors about their own business.
His first job was with a startup software company that went public after four years. He said having an entrepreneurial mindset puts him on common ground with a lot of the people with whom he meets.
“In some respects, I bring a different skillset than my predecessors,” Lovell said. “But because I don’t wear a collar, it might be easier to say no to me.”