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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Battelle renovations underway

Construction on the Battelle-Tompkins building began this summer and should last about a year as the College of Arts and Sciences looks to centralize and improve their faculty office space.

"Right now, we're in good shape," Gerry Gager, director of planning and development, said. "I've been attending the progress meetings. We're in the demolition phase right, now which is right where we should be." According to AU's Strategic Plan, issued in 1997, Battelle-Tompkins was intended to be renovated and re-opened by spring semester, 1999.

In the meantime, a number of AU programs and offices have been moved out of the building to make way for the construction. The Center for Teaching Excellence and the Honors Program have both been moved to Hurst Hall. The Sharjah Liason Office, which handles the partnership between AU and the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, has been moved off-campus. Early concerns about available space have been largely anticlimactic, Gager said.

"We've been worrying about that for 10 years. It was actually pretty easy," he said.

The budget for the renovations for Battelle-Tompkins is $8 million, Gager said. The funds were raised in the same bond issue that paid for the Ward and Kogod building renovations. In order to fund the repayment of the bonds, the university will need to find donors.

Bob Kogod, an AU alumnus who was essential in funding the Kogod building renovations, has also played a role in the Battelle-Tompkins renovations. He owns Charles Smith Construction Services, the company chosen for the project, according to Gager.

The Battelle-Tompkins building was originally constructed in 1926, but was added to over the course of the next 50 years. The final stage of the building was added in 1979.

"We're going to tear out everything inside," Gager said.

The new building will be largely devoted to CAS faculty offices but will also include a computer lab, a writing lab, a faculty library, seminar rooms and a common area that will serve as the focal point for the building. In addition, an elevator will be built in a more centralized and accessible part of the building. Technology will also be updated during the renovations.

"We wire everything we can think of wiring," Gager said. "People [used to] expect to have a phone line at their desk, now they expect an Ethernet connection."

Jorge Abud, assistant vice president of Facilities and Administrative Services, said CAS has the greatest shortage of faculty offices and the Battelle-Tompkins renovations are intended to combat the problem.

"We have a top goal at this school to give all full-time faculty individual offices," Abud said. "This will go a long way in solving that."

The building will house a number of faculty offices upon completion, including the Departments of Literature, History, Sociology, Anthropology, Philosophy and Religion according to CAS Dean Kay Mussell. A number of programs will also be housed in the renovated facility, such as Jewish studies, American studies and environmental studies.

"It's something that the college has been wanting for a long time. We're very excited about it," Mussell said.

The Battelle-Tompkins building will give CAS a good position on the quad and will centralize the CAS faculty, she said.

Some North side students are unhappy with the construction, as safety concerns have forced AU to block off the sidewalk between the Battelle-Tompkins and Kogod buildings.

"I've walked through it. They could easily move it a foot. Let us walk through that area," Jeff Silverman, a freshman in CAS, said.

Other students don't mind walking a little further to get to class.

"I haven't had too many problems with it," Camille Cassigneul, a Kogod freshman, said. "I just go on the other side of it."

AU officials have no plans, however, to shift the barricade.

"I don't anticipate opening that up just because of safety issues, Gager said. "We can't afford not to take safety as number one"

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