Three massive construction projects are changing the landscape of the heart of campus.
We wrote a bit about the EMU renovation back in November here at ATQ. Construction is now starting in earnest on that project this spring, with the craft center and skylight portions of the EMU set for demolition (and programs using that space have been shifted to Mac Court--a facility whose future I'll write about on a later edition of Campus Corner).
To the immediate south of the EMU, a major construction project has been ongoing since last spring--a complete gutting and renovation of Straub Hall.
This is essentially a deferred maintenance project. Old brick buildings need a lot of new nuts and bolts to keep them seismically safe, and the heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems need to be replaced. But these are true of a lot of buildings on campus. How do they decide which order to do them in?
The answer isn't necessairly in order of which buildings are in the worst shape. It usually has to do with other concerns. Peterson and Anstett were renovated because they were part of the new business complex. Fenton was renovated because it didn't have an elevator and wasn't ADA compliant. Allen was renovated because the journalism school is massively popular and needed more space.
Straub wasn't chosen to be in line for the next renoavtion because the phychology and linguistics are major campus money makers, nor because that building was in the worst shape on campus. It was chosen because, for a pretty large building, Straub had relatively little classroom space on a campus that has a shortage of it. Since these deferred maintenance projects involve gutting the building, you can re-organize the interior--in this case, adding over 1,000 new classroom seats, including a 500 seat lecture hall. Campus only has once lecture hall of that size, in Columbia Hall, which in itself is in huge need of renovation. They cannot renovate that building until they had a replacement for that lecture hall.
At $44 million, the pricetag isn't cheap, but when you get into the business or renovating old buildings that have seen decades of maintenance neglect, it's an expensive proposition. But it makes campus safer, more efficient and, with little room to expand outward, these projects are the only way to increase the student capacity of the University.