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Strinden Center razed in first of UND campus demolitions

GRAND FORKS — The Strinden Center building on the University of North Dakota campus was dripping with water when the excavator finally raised its arm and moved in with its jawed bucket.

Crews from Berger Enterprises, a regional contractor brought to campus to demolish the building that once housed various functions of the UND Alumni Foundation and Association, had been disconnecting utility lines for much of the past two days. In the early afternoon Wednesday, July 19, workers began hosing the center down with water, a dust control method that continued as the excavator devoured the building, pulling it apart into rough piles of salvageable materials.

The Strinden Center was one of seven campus buildings planned for demolition before students return to campus in the fall. UND project manager Brian Larson previously expected another building to fall Wednesday, the former Conflict Resolution Center at 314 Cambridge St., though that demolition was postponed. Larson still predicts that other building will come down by the end of this week.

For the past few years, university leaders have discussed the prospect of reducing the number of campus buildings, citing high deferred maintenance and operations costs.

UND announced in January its intent to demolish eight campus buildings. Besides the Strinden Center and 314 Cambridge, the university will raze 2912 University Ave.; the former Center for Community Engagement at 317 Cambridge; the former Era Bell Thompson Center; the former International Center; the former Women's Center; and Chandler Hall. Chandler, which was built in pieces and contains the oldest structure on the UND campus, is the last building scheduled for demolition and is expected to be taken down next summer.

The other buildings are expected to be torn down and put through site remediation by Aug. 11.

Roberta Beauchamp, an employee of the Alumni Association for nearly 30 years, was part of a small group of association employees who gathered in the shade across University Avenue to watch the building come down. At one point, Beauchamp crossed the street and asked a Berger employee if she could possibly have a brick from the building for a keepsake.

She returned to her coworkers a few minutes later with an armful.

"It's very sad to see it go," she said later, watching the excavator tear at the building. "But yet, it so needed to be torn down because of the disarray it's in. ... It was time. And it's prime real estate for the campus, it's in a great corner there."

The Strinden Center was originally built in 1987-88 and was once the Methodist Wesley Center.

In late 1996, under the guidance of Earl Strinden—longtime North Dakota legislator, former CEO of the Alumni Association and the namesake of the center—UND purchased the 10,000-square-foot structure then known as the United Campus Ministry building.

The Alumni Association employees remained in the center until fall 2012, at which point they moved to the recently completed Gorecki Alumni Center built just down the road. After that, the building housed faculty from the UND School of Law temporarily displaced by the renovation of their home building but, for the most part, the Strinden Center had reached the end of its consistent use on campus.