(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
The 106-year-old building is in the midst of a $21 million upgrade that will replace its top with new copper, in addition to an interior overhaul that aims to preserve its historical features while making student services operations more convenient and accessible.
The work on Academic Hall is in demolition phase, according to Kathy Mangels, the university's vice president of finance and administration. That work will continue through the summer. Renovation will also include upgrades to the building's infrastructure, such as replacement of the roof, new plumbing and seismic reinforcement.
University officials expect to be able to move their offices and student services like financial aid, admissions and the registrar's office back to Academic Hall in the summer of 2013.
Projects to restore Academic Hall are a piece of campuswide renovations funded by nearly $60 million in bonds issued in late 2010 for improving aging buildings and the campus infrastructure. Officials say all bond-funded projects are on track financially and for scheduled completion.
During the demolition phase and other projects at Academic Hall, workers have uncovered some of the building's historical features that were covered by previous renovations. Mangels said many blue and white tiles from the swimming pool that was formerly on the building's bottom floor were exposed during April demolitions. Carolyn Figliolo, the university's staff project manager for the Academic Hall renovations and construction of a new residence hall planned to open in fall 2013, said workers recently found two lighting sconces that were formerly attached to the exterior main entryway but taken down at some point and forgotten.
"They were just laying in a box in the attic," she said.
The university will have the sconces restored and remounted during the renovations. Restoration of the building's historical features, especially the dome and other copper elements, like drip edges on the roof and drain pipes, are the highlights of many projects, Mangels said.
Copper pieces removed from the dome will be preserved in some manner, although Mangels said no plans to do so are yet finalized. Southeast is working with a local metalsmith for ideas.
Across campus to the north, improvements are ongoing for space addition and renovation to Magill Hall, a science building. Work there began in September and includes classrooms added on to the building and a complete overhaul of utility systems. Three classrooms will open this fall and total improvements to the building will also be complete next summer. Costs for the projects total $18 million and include the cost of abatement of hazardous materials.
University officials are hopeful the abatement will put a cap once and for all on the presence of trace radioactive materials in and around the building that remain from a spill of americium-241 thought to have occurred sometime in the 1990s, when a safe containing the material was moved into a basement storage room.
The university began working under federal supervision to remove radioactive material in 2000 after the material was discovered to have spread throughout the building by way of foot traffic and movement of furniture and other items. Removal of the radioactive material from floors, walls and equipment has been a long and tedious process, and Mangels said everything in the building will undergo testing while work is in progress and be properly disposed of if radioactivity is found.
"One of the goals while renovating the building will be to get that done completely," Mangels said.
An environmental safety company is working with the university on testing. The government previously deemed the levels of radioactivity known to exist in the building safe for human contact.
Upgrades in Magill have been promoted as a major need during campuswide renovations.
"Before this started, you could find chemistry equipment in bigger high schools that was better than what we had in there," Mangels said.
A walkway between Magill Hall and Rhodes Hall that allows access between the Scully building and other buildings and two parking lots to the north will be closed to foot traffic for most of the summer. That should be the only change to campus routes that will affect students and staff, Mangels said.
Scully will also be closed for the summer as workers replace air-conditioning systems on the building's first and third floors. System replacement on the second and fourth floors will close the building again next summer.
Another project in Scully not financed by the bond issue but by the university's dining services provider Chartwells will add a food option to the north end of campus, which currently has no services aside from Towers cafeteria to the east and a cart inside Scully that offered students sandwiches and bottled drinks.
An area of the building that formerly housed the university's Center for Child Studies will become a Subway and a Beanery Cafe this fall, where students can use their meal plans or cash. The center combined with the university's Child Enrichment Center in a new location during April. A playground adjacent to the building will be turned into outdoor seating.
Chartwells will spend $3.3 million upgrading its services on campus between now and next year.
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