Plans move forward for $9.7 million renovation and addition at OUWB’s O’Dowd Hall

Plans move forward for $9.7 million renovation and addition at OUWB's O'Dowd Hall
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Changes are ahead for Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine’s O’Dowd Hall, where a significant renovation and addition are planned.

Plans call for more space on the first floor for the addition of mid-size classrooms, more study space, and a break area with kitchen-related amenities and more.

The project also is set to include an enhanced entrance space, referred to as a “gateway,” that will improve visible access to OUWB at O’Dowd Hall and is more functional for all visitors and occupants.

The $9.7 million plan was approved by the Oakland University Board of Trustees on June 13.

The request for proposals period for construction drawings and construction management ended July 20 and officials currently are reviewing submissions. The final plans are anticipated to take six months with construction expected to start in early 2023. (A webpage about the project that will be updated as the project moves along can be found here.)

“I’m excited that we’re moving forward,” said Steve Collard, vice dean for Business and Administration. “We’re just trying to do this as quickly and as efficiently as we can…the university has been really helpful in trying to help us meet those goals.”

History of O’Dowd

An image of O'Dowd Hall under construction
A photo of O’Dowd Hall under construction.

O’Dowd Hall is named for Donald O’Dowd and his wife Jan O’Dowd. Donald O’Dowd joined OU in 1960 as a founding faculty member of the university’s psychology department. He was appointed as dean of the university in 1961 and served as OU’s president from 1970 to 1979. Jan O’Dowd was heavily involved in OU, too, assisting in recruiting faculty and fostering a community including faculty and their families, staff and students.

A groundbreaking for O’Dowd Hall was held in late 1978 and the building dedication ceremony was held on July 17, 1981.

Due to renovations since then, the building has changed in several ways.

The largest of the renovations was around the time OUWB welcomed its first class. That’s when O’Dowd Hall underwent a $5.3 million renovation that included upgrades to the exterior, creation of new breakout rooms, construction of the student lounge, and room 110 (a large flexible classroom that can be partitioned into smaller learning spaces).

When the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) granted the maximum possible reaccreditation to OUWB in 2020, the organization identified the need for further renovations.

Further renovations

When LCME officials visited OUWB as part of the regular reaccreditation process, the school was given an “unsatisfactory” status in one part of the evaluation for essentially not having enough mid-size classrooms (for up to 25 students at a time) and small group space.

Collard said reports that the “unsatisfactory” status alone somehow jeopardized OUWB’s accreditation were not true.

What is true, he said, is that any medical school’s accreditation could be threatened if they receive an “unsatisfactory” score for something identified by LCME, and nothing is done about it.

That’s why Collard and other OUWB leaders have been busy working with Fishbeck (one of Oakland University’s approved architectural vendors) to come up with a plan to satisfy LCME and make the necessary improvements to O’Dowd Hall.

“This is all part of the process,” said Collard. “We’re working on this and we’re making progress that will truly benefit our students and faculty in key ways.”

The new plan

Details of the changes are outlined in “The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine O’Dowd Hall Space Study” dated June 15, 2022, and prepared by Fishbeck+SLAM.

First floor changes include:

  • About 5,000 square feet will be renovated for new classrooms consisting of 10, 14-seat seminar rooms and operable partitions to allow eight of the seminar rooms to expand to four, 28-seat classrooms.
  • Corridor upgrades and the new gateway entrance will provide about 75 additional study/social seats as well as provide a pre-function area to layout food or materials outside of the classrooms.
  • Two new unisex restrooms will be added and the current restrooms will be completely renovated.

“LCME pointed out in their visit that we didn’t have mid-size classroom space or small group space for some of the new types of learning,” said Collard. “For example, there’s some case-based, problem-based learning that needs to be done in small groups.”

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An image of an artist rendering of the new entry to O'Dowd
The new entrance is designed to provide a more welcoming feeling.

Collard said that a secondary goal of the O’Dowd renovations is to create a “gateway” entrance to the building.

Plans call for the new entrance to be located on the east side of the building — the entrance used by most when entering O’Dowd Hall from the closest parking lot.

Collard said the new entry would increase the school’s visibility on campus, provide a much-more welcoming feeling, and improve service and security — a contrast to the design of the current entrance.

He added that plans are being developed to essentially provide a security perimeter around the first and second floor space occupied by OUWB that will permit access for students to study space 24/7.

Plans for the new entryway call for an open staircase that will seamlessly connect the first and second floors and provide a new reception desk for directing guests. Areas will be added on the first floor where students can take a break, charge devices, and have a snack.

Costs and more

Collard said he has fielded many questions about the cost, the timeline, and more.

Costs, he said, would be covered by OUWB’s cash on-hand. That means tuition costs will not increase to cover the project, nor will any other type of financing be necessary.

With regard to the timeline, a request for proposals was issued in early July. The deadline was July 20. Collard said officials currently are reviewing the bids and that he expects a selection will be made any day now. Six months of planning is expected to follow, with an eye on March 2023 as a construction begin date.

Collard said he will work with contractors to minimize distractions for occupants in the building, especially during the school year.

Collard also said he has received questions with regard to the part of OUWB’s 2022-25 Strategic Plan that calls for OUWB to “formulate and commit to a plan for a new medical school building to meet OUWB’s long-term needs.”

However, he said, there are many questions that need to be answered: where would the building be, would it be a new building or a renovation to an existing, how big would it be, how would it be paid for?

“A work group will be formed to carefully plan what a long-term medical school building on a clinical campus should include,” said Collard.

Additionally, he said, another one of the school’s strategic goals is to “ensure facilities align with OUWB’s short-term needs through 2025.”

Collard added that the school simply can’t wait when it comes to addressing the immediate needs identified by LCME.

“We have two parallel goals – to provide the space medical students and faculty need today – and to carefully plan for the best long term future space for OUWB,” said Collard. “The O’Dowd project is a great short-term and long-term investment for Oakland University. We are taking older space and making it into something new that will benefit students for years to come.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu.

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing web page.

NOTICE: Except where otherwise noted, all articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. You are free to copy, distribute, adapt, transmit, or make commercial use of this work as long as you attribute Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine as the original creator and include a link to this article.

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