Major campus overhaul looming

Norwich University will begin bicentennial renovations and construction in the next few weeks, bringing noticeable changes to the campus, upgrades to dorm and classroom buildings, and some upheaval to classroom schedules.

The renovations, which are expected to be finished by fall 2019, will affect both faculty and students, who will have to adapt to temporary classroom and office space until construction is finished on campus.

The university budget for the renovations and construction has been estimated at $59 million and is coming from donations as part of a major fundraising campaign tied to the bicentennial.

“We have several projects that are going to be on their way very soon,” said David Magida, chief  administrative officer at Norwich.

As part of a normal process of renovating dormitories. Patterson Hall will be renovated this summer, which will start the day after commencement, said David Magida, chief administrative officer.

Besides beginning the renovations on Patterson on the south end of the quad, Norwich will also begin the process of constructing a new building called Mack Hall starting this April, which is part of the major renovations planned for the Webb/Dewey/Ainsworth buildings. The Mack Project will be located behind Webb on the north side.

Magida said the busy summer will also include starting the renovations of Ainsworth, which houses the College of Liberal Arts faculty. As with the entire package of planned renovations, the goal is to bring buildings up to speed in terms of teaching/learning styles and to address critical maintenance items on campus.

According to the construction information on the Norwich website, after the renovations classrooms will increase by 22 percent, from 32 to 39   (www.lifeat.norwich.edu/wdam/). The renovations will create over 4,500 square feet dedicated to study spaces, with a dramatic increase in the number of group study rooms and open lounges available for students within the academic buildings. These spaces will mostly be available in Webb and Mack, with a few in Dewey and Ainsworth, according to the university.  New meeting space and conference rooms are also included.

With the extensive work being done, Norwich will temporarily be losing not only office space but classroom space as well. The construction of the prefab metal building at the south end of campus, called the CoLaboratory, will allow the school to use it for temporary classrooms during the renovations, Magida said, as will some other outlying buildings.

“To take care of the office space we’ve done some work on the outlines of the smaller buildings that we own and the faculty and staff are going to be moving to those buildings,” said Magida.

After renovations and construction are finished, the CoLaboratory space is going to be used for a variety of reasons for engineering and architect students, as well as for storage, Magida explained. The new prefab building was placed on the site of an old storage building used by the school and the items in it are now being housed in trailers until the renovations are done.

“Right now there’s only one academic class in it and then we’re going to start using it more as we get into next school year and we have to replace all those classrooms that are in Webb and that is what it will be used for,” he said.

The administration has been planning with the registrar’s office to find temporary classroom space and avoid major disruption for students.

“We are working very close with the registrar’s office and they have a big job ahead of them, but we have been talking with them all along and we really appreciate their flexibility and eagerness to work with us. But between their creativity and the registrar’s office and the temporary classroom spaces that we have, we’ll be able to have fairly close to normal classroom schedule,” said Magida.

“We shouldn’t have to cancel class or move classes from their regular format to online, we should have enough classroom spaces to take care of the regular teaching load,” said Magida.

One unusual classroom space may end up being in White Chapel. Rev. William Wick has been asked to possibly have classes in the chapel if the space is needed, which would lead to the chapel getting a few upgrades a well.

“They’ve talked about a projector and a different screen, and I for years have made the request, but not a demand for some kind of curtain on the windows because otherwise we can’t multi-media in the daytime at all,” said Wick.

Wick said his concern was that classes might interfere with student and faculty use of the chapel for prayer and worship.  “I have to make certain the chapel’s primary focus is for worshipers’ place of safe haven, our talk and conversation can be done and what that being said what do you need and let try to make things work by scheduling,” said Wick.

Wick is willing to help and figure things out if the chapel is needed, noting “I’m a team player,” but he also has to make it his priority to keep the main purpose of the building, he said. Wick said he is open to rescheduling times for church activities if he has to.

“I’ll work very hard to preserve this for the safe haven, the prayer and worship that it needs to be and say okay what do you need, and figure this out. We could adapt some times and changes if we have to and I’m willing to do that, within reason of what is able to work for us here too,” he said, adding that he also wants to ensure the space is preserved. “Part of it is to keep the beauty of this building unchanged too,” said Wick.

Another issue is security. “We’ve had the chapel unlocked for years because I want this to be a place where folks can come in here at 2 o’clock in the morning. If they put some visual stuff in here that’s high-tech they would have too lock it up for security and that changes the dynamic for accessibility for the students and those are the kind of things we have to look at,” explained Wick.

“There are a few things but none of them are unworkable. Like John Kennedy said, why not? Negatives always comes faster then positives. If you start with a negative and end with a negative that’s not good at all,” said Wick.

However, overall Wick is looking forward to the renovations after being at Norwich for over 28 years. “There’s no question that with the way our campus has grown and the offerings of different majors etc., that space and office space is a big deal. In my 28 years here, Dewey, Webb, and Ainsworth, to my knowledge, has not been touched at all, and it’s time,” he said.

An intense summer of work should have Patterson finished by the time students come in August. That renovation is going to cost around $1 million and will come out of the annual operating budget for facilities using money that is set aside for capital projects on campus, said Magida.

He said Ainsworth will be done by January 2018, and will be ready for spring classes in 2018. Mack Hall will be ready by August of 2018.

Magida knows the construction that will be going on around campus will affect campus life and hopes the student body and faculty will be understanding.  “We are well aware that there are going to be inconveniences that are created because of all the construction work. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of work for two-and-a-half years in the heart of the campus,” said Magida.

Every effort is being made to try to ease the impact on campus.

“We’re trying to minimize the disruptions of campus life but people need to understand that it’s going to be noisy, with dirt, dust and inconvenience related to the construction and we’ll do our best to keep those interruptions as small as possible,” Magida said.

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