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Campus Sees Historic Building Boom

 Campus Sees Historic Building Boom

08/28/2012 

Years ago, a major construction or renovation project was a rarity on the SUNY Cortland campus.

No more. Students arriving for the fall semester must wend their way to classes around construction sites for two new buildings and two major renovation projects.

The College grounds are currently experiencing a level of earthmoving, concrete-pouring, leveling and erecting not seen since the major original construction of the current campus, which took off like wildfire during the 1950s and tapered off in the early 1970s.

The hard-hats and cranes reappeared in the 1990s as a steadily increasing student population put pressure on the sturdy brick buildings, most of which were approaching 50 years old.

The upgrades and additions never really ceased, and will reach a peak over the next two years. Although project trailers and heavy equipment have become familiar sights, the sheer scope of the work planned or underway will affect students, faculty and staff from one end of the campus to the other.

The College is erecting a new Student Life Center on the former Carl “Chugger” Davis Field, building a new residence hall near the base of College Hill, renovating and expanding Ross E. Bowers Hall and dramatically upgrading the Ruth E. Dowd Fine Arts Center.

Jeff Lallas, director of facilities planning, design and construction, said the projects will be well worth the inconvenience and one- to two-year wait.

“The Student Life Center and the residence hall are probably our last new buildings for a very long time,” said Lallas, noting that fully 231,000 square feet of space is being built or rebuilt between all four projects.

Student Life Center

The new $56 million Student Life Center will be built near the heart of campus. This unique, multi-purpose building will greatly expand student recreational, club and social opportunities. Construction will begin this October, and the center is expected to open by December 2014.

New Residence Hall

Contractors launched work on the College’s newest, 228-bed residence hall at the end of last semester, and the steel structure is taking shape at the end of Hayes and Hendrick halls facing Casey and Smith Towers.

The footers and concrete were being poured in early August, and the steel and planking were expected to arrive in mid-August, Lallas said.

When ready for Fall 2013 semester occupancy, the $21 million building’s interior will bear some resemblance to the six-year-old Glass Tower Hall at the opposite end of the quad. Its façade will be different, but the residence will offer many of the same student amenities, such as the popular “junior suite” configuration.

The newest residence hall, which will have one more story than Glass Tower Hall, will join 15 others on campus.

Dowd Fine Arts Center

Windows for art studios are being added on the west wing of the building to give students more natural light to work by. The upgrade also encompasses roof work and mechanicals such as rooftop air conditioners.

“This will be essentially the second and final phase of renovations that started a dozen years ago,” Lallas said. “In 2000, the top floor was abated for asbestos and renovated and after this phase will remain exactly the same in look and function after some modest work there.”

The College will completely renovate the lower two floors, including the theater and gallery, and add a sprinkler system throughout the building. Dowd Center’s top floor tenants can move in next summer. The complete renovation will be done by December 2013.

Bowers Hall

A new addition is rising out of the ground where the former main entrance and museum wing were demolished over the summer, as the College’s primary science facility undergoes expansion and renovation of the Bowers I wing.

Bowers Hall faculty and staff were relocated last year to the Bowers II wing, Cornish-Van Hoesen or temporary trailers. The renovation began six months ago.

Bowers Hall will reopen for the Spring 2014 semester.

Lallas urged patience as the campus community adjusts to the changed location of classrooms, offices and departments and the altered flow of pedestrian traffic caused by having so many building construction projects going on at once.

“We’ve tried to utilize as much space as we have,” Lallas said. “Then we’ve had to lease some space in the community and add trailers for everyone else. So we’re very much maxed out and spread out all over the place.”

Some classes and faculty office hours, formerly held in Bowers Hall and Dowd Center, will temporarily be held in other locations, including the portable, white trailers placed around the campus during the summer months.

Dowd Center’s faculty and staff moved out at spring semester’s end, as the academic building began its anticipated year-and-a-half internal renovation. Dowd Center faculty in performing arts, art and art history, and communication studies are scattered to the Cornish, Van Hoesen, Winchell, MacDonald and Glass Tower halls on College grounds and the former TC3 extension building on Court Street. The first two departments will return to Dowd Center, but the Communication Studies Department, presently housed in Cornish Hall, eventually will find a permanent home in the C wing of Van Hoesen Hall.

During the interim, students will walk to the MacDonald Building on Tompkins Street for their solo vocal and instrument practice. Choral voices will be raised inside the Interfaith Center. The Dowd Gallery art exhibitions have temporarily moved downtown, to the Main Street SUNY Cortland facility at 9 Main St.

Many upper- and mid-campus parking spaces are already, or soon will be, serving as staging areas for the many work crews and machinery.

“We hope people will understand the space challenge and look for available parking, as it no doubt will be difficult to expect all current parking needs can be met on the upper campus,” Lallas said.

Planners anticipate that all of the new work will meet stringent environmental standards and help reduce the campus’ carbon footprint. The College is aiming to certify the two new facilities with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold ratings, demonstrating they meet high national standards for environmental conservation in building construction. They would be the first two buildings on campus, and in Cortland County, to be certified LEED Gold.

newest residence hall under construction
The newest residence hall, which will bookend the Neubig Hall quad adjacent to Smith and Casey Towers, will be only the second residence hall to feature air conditioning when it opens in Fall 2013.

Glass Tower Hall achieved LEED certification when it was built in 2005, and subsequent campus renovations were built to the LEED Silver standard.

 To reach the gold standard, the College must demonstrate and document even more progress in the use of energy efficient design and construction features, recycled or sustainable building materials and the establishment and fulfillment of particular energy reduction benchmarks. The latter standard might be attained, for example, if the College commits to purchasing a certain percentage of renewable energy supplies.

The College is already ahead of the curve, as facility managers have been installing sophisticated and efficient building systems and controls for years to reduce the energy needed to heat, cool and light campus facilities, Lallas said.

“We try to reduce the carbon footprint on campus and the overall operating costs for the campus and the state,” Lallas said.

The Student Life Center, additionally, will feature a partial green roof, planted with sod to reduce the building’s environmental impact, and photovoltaic panels to capture some of the sun’s energy and reduce energy expense.