Published: Sept. 16, 2010

Work begins on addition to MSU’s Wells Hall

Contact(s): Tom Oswald Communications and Brand Strategy, Michael Jenkins College of Arts and Letters office: (517) 355-5363, Barb Kranz Office of Planning and Budgets office: (517) 353-5062

EAST LANSING, Mich. — With the ceremonial digging of shovels, work began Sept. 16 on an addition to Michigan State University’s Wells Hall, an addition that will eventually become the university’s language education hub.

The project will add three stories and create about 88,000 gross square feet of space above the B-wing of Wells, which is located on Red Cedar Road next to the MSU International Center.

The addition will serve as home to a number of departments that will eventually be relocated from Morrill Hall, including English; linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African languages; Spanish and Portuguese; French, classics and Italian; and the English Language Center.

Religious Studies and African American Studies also will be relocated to Wells, while the history department will be moved into renovated space in the Old Horticulture Building.

In addition to bringing these units into one modern, state-of-the-art facility, it also will place them within proximity to colleagues in the College of Education and International Studies and Programs.

“Understanding of world languages and cultures is a prerequisite to the ability to be successfully engaged in government, diplomacy, business, research, and the arts in the 21st century,” said Karin Wurst, dean of MSU’s College of Arts and Letters. “This new building will be a visible beacon highlighting MSU’s global-international focus, that places major emphasis on language learning and teaching, and that has the strongest Study Abroad Program in the country.”

Morrill Hall, a wooden structure originally constructed in 1900, has suffered irreparable deterioration. As a result, it’s been determined that reconstruction and restoration of the facility would not be economically feasible.

“We are very aware of the historical significance of Morrill Hall,” said Barb Kranz, interim director of Facilities Planning and Space Management. “However, the replacement of Morrill will offer a unique opportunity to significantly upgrade the quality of space for its current occupants and to achieve a more efficient use of space through effective design and allocation.”

The new Wells Hall addition will feature classroom and office space, a two-story presentation room, an atrium and a coffee shop. Included in the three-story addition is a one-story section that will extend out toward Red Cedar Road that will be topped by a green roof.

During construction, all courses and scheduled events in the B-wing of Wells Hall will be relocated to other campus locations. The B-wing classrooms are expected to re-open in the fall of 2011 with the rest of the new addition opening in August 2012.

The estimated cost of the project, including the demolition of Morrill Hall and renovations to the Old Horticulture Building, is $38 million. The source of funding is a tax-exempt bond offering.

Morrill Hall is named in honor of Justin Smith Morrill, the Vermont senator for whom the Morrill Act is named and what brought about the establishment of the land-grant university. The Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.

With reverence being paid to MSU’s land-grant roots, recognition of the original Morrill Hall’s historical significance will be considered at every step of the demolition, site restoration and commemoration process.

Discussions regarding a suitable commemoration of Morrill and the significance of the Morrill Act are ongoing. Any decision will be announced at a later date. A commemoration team has been formed.


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

Click to enlarge

An artist's rendering (above and below) of the three-story addition to Wells Hall. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the project were held Sept. 16, 2010. The facility is expected to be opened in 2012.

An artist's rendering (above and below) of the three-story addition to Wells Hall. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the project were held Sept. 16, 2010. The facility is expected to be opened in 2012.

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