By Elizabeth Dobbins
LOWELL -- After a year and a half of construction, Perry Hall at University of Massachusetts Lowell has reopened transformed by a $50 million renovation.
Officials cut the ribbon on the engineering building on Thursday.
"This isn't just a renovation. It's excellence," said Marty Meehan, president of the UMass system. "It's taking an older building that is very important to the historic nature of what has happened here for so many years and making it a cutting-edge building that's just as good as any brand new building."
Over the past 18 months, the 47,825-square-foot building was gutted and renovated. The reopened fourth floor includes an additional 5,600-square-feet of new space.
Christopher Souza, a senior plastic engineering student at UMass Lowell, said lab work is an important part of the major.
"As an engineering student there is not a day we don't go into the labs," he said.
The building includes eight new labs, three for teaching and five for research. The labs are specialized for several disciplines including biomedical engineering, environmental engineering, chemical engineering, biomanufacturing and alternative energy research.
"Now we have a lab in a building that matches our reputation, the culture and the character of this engineering school," said Robert Manning, executive chair of MFS Investment Management.
The construction was funded by a combination of private and corporate donations and university investment.
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center donated $5 million to the project. LEWA, Foster Corp. and Superior Controls donated to the project, as well as several alumni of the university.
Proceeds from the sale of the university's west campus for $2.95 million earlier this month are also expected to fund the project, according to Christine Gillette, a spokesperson for UMass Lowell.
When the building first opened in 1952 it was known as the Leather and Paper Engineering Building. It was also known as Engineering Hall, before being renamed Perry Hall, after Barry Perry, who studied plastics engineering at UMass Lowell, and his wife Janice.
Barry Perry, originally from Dartmouth, has worked in plastics and chemical engineering and as a corporate leader.
He retired in 2006, but still serves on the board of several global chemical and electronics manufacturers. He and his wife also fund scholarships for students at UMass Lowell.
Mayor William Samaras said UMass Lowell and its continued investments makes Lowell a city with a future.
"The most important resource Lowell has is the University of Lowell," he said. "There is no question about that."
The project was completed by the UMass Building Authority managed by STV. The architect was Perkins + Will and Suffolk Construction acted as contractor.