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UA research site gets green light

by Jaime Adame | November 19, 2021 at 3:43 a.m.

Trustees on Thursday approved the first steps toward building a silicon carbide research facility for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville that would also serve electronics researchers around the country.

Last month, UA announced that it had been awarded a $17.9 million federal grant to operate a first-of-its-kind prototyping and fabrication facility for silicon carbide, a material that's sought after when designing components for use in electric vehicles.

The University of Arkansas board of trustees at a meeting Thursday gave the go-ahead for the selection of architects and a construction manager, though UA will start with a budget study and the renovation of existing space before requesting approval for a new building.

This "phase 1" portion of the project will cost an estimated $3.185 million, which is to come from the university's central administration and departmental reserves, according to board documents.

A new fabrication lab -- possibly to be located in the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in south Fayetteville -- would cost between $15 million and $20 million, according to early estimates provided to the trustees.

The existing space to be used in the early stages of the project is in the technology park.

"The facility will support the growing demand for silicon carbide-based semiconductor research. It will open unique partnerships within the industry and government," Ann Bordelon, UA's vice chancellor for finance and administration, told trustees.

Alan Mantooth, the UA professor leading the effort, said last month that the National Science Foundation grant does not pay for new building construction.

The trustees approved Tsoi Kobus Design, based in Boston, and WDD, which has offices in Fayetteville and Little Rock, as project architects, with The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., which has offices in Baltimore and Tulsa, as the construction manager.

Separately, trustees also approved $7.6 million in ventilation improvements on the UA campus, including in Old Main, to be paid for with federal coronavirus relief funds. The board approved Henderson Engineers, which has offices in Bentonville and Lenexa, Kan., and Core Architects, which is based in Rogers, to work on the project.

Trustees also approved the $3.7 million purchase of a 22,208-square-foot office building at 481 S. Shiloh Drive in Fayetteville, just west of Interstate 49.

The building's owner is Store Master Funding III LLC, and it's been occupied by Pace Industries.

The die-casting manufacturer in June announced that it was moving its headquarters from Fayetteville to Michigan.

UA will use the building for "certain non-student facing activities," including as a space for researchers associated with the university's new Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research until a new on-campus research facility is built.

Bordelon said the office building is a six- to eight-minute drive from the main UA campus.

Trustees also approved Olsson, a Fayetteville-based engineering and design firm, for construction of the 2021-25 sections of Senior Walk, described in board documents as UA's "oldest continuing tradition." Names of graduates are inscribed on sidewalks.

The new Senior Walk sections will be along Cleveland Street, Razorback Road, Maple Street and Garland Avenue. A request for qualification documents shows the Senior Walk sections for this time period forming a square that surrounds such campus buildings as the Maple Hill residence halls, Epley Center, John W. Tyson Building and the Pat Walker Health Center.

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