Lawrence to expand Bjorklunden

David Judge

Bj”rklunden, Lawrence’s off-campus retreat facility, hosted 1,400 students and faculty members in 65 different clubs, teams, and classes last year, according to facility statistics. On average this came out to 40 or more students per trip. Those numbers are already on the rise this year, and the University is currently exploring ideas to expand the retreat facility to deal with the growing problem. While still in the pre-planning stages, this could make Bj”rklunden “a much more versatile facility,” according to James Hall, student and former Bj”rklunden employee.
Currently, Bj”rklunden can house up to 60 guests. Most weekend trips involve two separate groups, which can overburden the residence space as well as classroom facilities. The proposed expansion would allow an extra 40 students per weekend, letting in more people per group or three or more groups per weekend. In addition to expanding residential space, the campaign hopes to create a large new multipurpose classroom, another seminar room adding double the original space, an observation deck, a computer lab, and a mud room for science groups. The project would also involve an outdoor deck with a view of the lake, added storage and mechanical rooms, expanded parking, and an elevator.
Project estimates place the cost at $5 million, with current needs pushing the extension forward. Bj”rklunden staff received average requests for 200 students per weekend this month alone. Over 20 groups are already waitlisted for trips, and others are already trying to claim space throughout the year. Bj”rklunden director Mark Breseman is hopeful that this popularity will speed up the project. “One of the driving forces behind this addition is student and faculty interest,” said Breseman.
“Some students are skeptical about the proposed expansion,” said Hall, for fear that the expansion will alter the experience and memories for others. To avoid this, LU has hired the architectural firm Miller Wagner Coenen McMahon, the original designers of the lodge.
Project members hope this expansion will produce more weekend visits and attendance to summer artistic sessions. The expansion would also double the housing space for summer visitors as well as adding capacity for four more summer staffers.
At present, there is no project timetable due to lack of funding. However, the Board of Trustees has begun a $5 million fund-raising campaign for the project. If funding is secured immediately, project members believe it could be completed as early as June 2007. The board is also planning to create a new endowment fund strictly for Bj”rklunden to ensure further developments in years to come.