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Updated 10:00 AM October 31, 2007
 

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Regents approve replacement of Towsley Center for Children

The University will replace the Towsley Center for Children with a new facility that will broaden U-M's capacity for child-care. The Board of Regents Oct. 25 approved the building design.
An artist's rendering illustrates the exterior of the new Towsley Center for Children; groundbreaking is planned for June 2008. (Image courtesy Integrated Design Solutions LLC)

The new structure will combine the U-M Children's Center for Working Families and Pound House — both built before 1915 — into a single center. The building replacement project is a result of the Child Care Initiative, begun in 2005 by President Mary Sue Coleman to provide more full-time child-care on campus, develop new infant and toddler care programs and improve University facilities for early childhood education and care.

"High-quality on-campus child-care is vital for the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, and to our commitment to work/life balance," says Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources. The University's current child-care centers are operating at maximum capacity according to accreditation guidelines, she says.

A budget of $8 million for the 22,500-square-foot facility was approved by the regents in April along with authorization to retain the architectural firm Integrated Design Solutions LLC to design the facility.

Three basic concerns guided the conceptual design, says David Osler, the project's design architect and consultant to Integrated Design Solutions.

"The new facility needs to have twice the capacity of the original, be situated on the same neighborhood site, and maintain the existing outdoor play areas," Osler says. "We realized that the building must be multi-story while maintaining architecture that is residential in scale and character so that it is inviting and familiar in its form, detail and landscaping."

The slate-like shingle roof is designed with a steep pitch to enable a small future expansion within the proposed structure, Osler says.

"The new space provides for infant care, child development research and the care of children with special needs in a barrier-free environment," says Jennie McAlpine, director of the Work/Life Resources Program. "Great care went into developing a new facility that will meet our current needs but also have the potential to grow and adjust as needs change in the future. This promises to open doors for many new possibilities, including the flexibility to expand our capacity for infant and toddler care."

Groundbreaking is planned for June 2008. Child-care and educational programs for enrolled children will continue in an off-site location during the construction period.

The center is named for Margaret Towsley, a local philanthropist who ran a nursery on the site for more than 50 years before donating it to the University. Towsley died in 1994. The foundation bearing her name and that of her husband, pediatrician Harry Towsley, has contributed to the University and the Ann Arbor community.

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