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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities

Cowles House - elevator and interior renovations

Project phase: Planning/Design

Project background

  • Cowles House was originally constructed in 1857 and has been the subject of periodic renovations. It was named the official residence of the President in 1941.
  • Although the current President does not use Cowles House as a primary residence, the facility hosts more than 150 events annually and serves as a guesthouse for dignitaries visiting the University.
  • The current configuration of Cowles House does not provide adequate space to properly support events, causing public areas to be used for staging and storage.
  • Further, the building has limited accessibility for persons with disabilities.
  • The upstairs residential space is essentially unchanged since renovations in 1950. The residential space is not separated from the events downstairs in a manner that allows that space to function as an independent apartment.

Project scope

  • As planning begins, the project is anticipated to include renovations, and, potentially, an addition necessary to make all levels of the house accessible. The accessibility components would include an elevator, restrooms, and appropriate circulation space, as well as access to the outdoor garden area.
  • The rest of the project may involve converting existing space to facilities that would better support the event workload; updating the second floor to provide privacy and functional space for residents and guests of Cowles House; and selected upgrades to furnishings and equipment.
  • Capital renewal needs will also be reviewed and may be added to the project if doing so provides an opportunity for cost savings or other benefits from coordinating the necessary work.


  • Planning for these modifications will incur costs for consultants, designers, and architects. The Administration will update the Board on project cost estimates during the latter stages of the planning phase.
  • It is anticipated that the source of project funding will be the general fund for the costs associated with accessibility, life safety, code compliance, and capital renewal, with gifts for all remaining project costs.

Questions, concerns, comments?