AU will delay the start of McKinley Building renovations, the future home of the School of Communication, until this summer, according to University administration and Bowie Gridley Architects, the firm working with AU architects.
University development officials previously said construction would begin in late January 2012, The Eagle reported.
The University is currently deciding among nine private contractors to employ for the renovation.
SOC Dean Larry Kirkman said multiple factors contributed to the delay, including the high pedestrian traffic between McKinley and the Mary Graydon Center, as well as the relocation of departments currently in McKinley.
“There may have been other issues that contributed to the delay, but I was told it made sense to wait until the end of the semester,” he said in the email. “I don’t think the few months are a big deal.”
AU obtained permits from the District approving construction on McKinley building around Jan. 1, SOC Associate Dean for Administration and Planning Carl Beimfohr said.
AU Senior Director of Regional Advancement Peter Caborn said the renovation delay occurred because the University did not receive these permits on time to start construction in January.
Robert Sherrill, a senior project architect for Bowie Gridley Architects, said he was unaware of any delays in the construction process and that no changes have been made to the plan since fall 2011.
“We expect construction to start after spring commencement,” he said in an email. “The first tasks will be to demolish the portions of the building that are slated to be removed and to begin excavation for new footings for the addition.”
While Sherrill does not foresee any future difficulties with the McKinley Building, he said he cannot promise anything.
“There are always challenges during the construction process,” he said.
Funds not causing delay
Caborn said fundraising for the new SOC building is not one of the reasons construction was delayed.
Over $5 million of the $13 million goal has already been raised, according to Carbon. The entire project will cost $26 million.
“It is quite possible that the total cost of the restoration project may be funded through philanthropic gifts,” Caborn said. “American University is committed to the completion of this project for the future of the School of Communication and is prepared to invest the other $13 million to fund the project, however.”
The project was originally delayed because of the economic recession in 2008, Caborn said.
“Years ago, when the vision for the new SOC was first announced, the global economic downturn contributed to the smart decision by AU to delay the project until now,” he said.
Despite the delay in construction, the University is preparing McKinley Building for renovations.
Former McKinley residents move out
Physics Department Chair Nathan Harshman said his department and others moved their offices out of McKinley in December. They temporarily share a teaching space with the Chemistry Department in Beeghly with offices set up in the Sports Center Annex.
Harshman said there are some positive changes to moving out of McKinley, such as cleaner facilities and fewer rats, cockroaches and electrical problems.
However, the departments expected a more permanent new location than the University intends to provide, Harshman said.
“What we always hoped was that when we moved [is that] we would be moving into our next long-term home,” he said. “I would think that the most inconvenient thing about all of this is that we are going to have to do this again in five to seven years.”
Despite these uncertainties, Harshman said the move is an advancement.
“On balance, despite the fact that we have severed our tie with 50 years of history of physics being in McKinley and despite the fact that we have reduced our space, this feels like progress,” he said. “This feels like the good kind of progress.”