Former Washington College of Law building renovated and repurposed

Undergrads taking classes in Spring Valley building in the meantime

Former Washington College of Law building renovated and repurposed

Hundreds of AU undergrads are taking classes in AU’s Spring Valley building this fall as crews work to complete a $10 million renovation to transform the former Washington College of Law into the new home of the School of Education, among other departments.

The improvements to the building will go on throughout the semester, although faculty have moved into their new offices and classes are being taught in the completed portions of the building. This is the first time that undergraduate classes are being scheduled at Spring Valley, University Registrar Doug McKenna said in an email.

After the Washington College of Law moved from the Spring Valley campus to the Tenley campus, administrators chose to repurpose the building by relocating the School of Education and the School of Professional and Extended Studies, among other offices.

Crews began renovating the building in March and have completed work on the third through sixth floors according to David Dower, assistant vice president of planning and project management. Work will continue on the first and second floors throughout the semester, he said.  

“It went incredibly smoothly,” Dower said of the renovations. “We did it very quickly.”

The renovations involved a number of “lifecycle replacement[s]” to older elements of the building. The mechanical and electrical systems were updated, including new cooling towers and a new electrical switch. All of the flooring as well as the ceiling in much of the building was replaced, Dower said. The first and second floors required more significant construction, in part because that was where the library used to be, and will therefore take longer to complete.

The schedule has played out as expected and the project has not run into any budgetary issues, according to Dower. Although the costs for the first two floors aren’t finalized, Dower believes that the project will come in under its $10 million budget. The cost of the project is a planned part of the larger capital program/budget, Dower said in an email.

On average, about 315 undergraduates are scheduled to take classes in Spring Valley each day, McKenna said. 

Classes offered in the building include upper-level undergraduate courses as well as graduate courses and those for special programs, like the Washington Semester Program. Administrators requested that no 100- or 200-level courses be offered in the building so that underclassmen do not have to travel off main campus, McKenna said. 

Courses whose programs are housed on the main campus could also be offered at Spring Valley if there isn’t another space available at the appropriate time, McKenna said.

Because the Spring Valley building is more than a half mile from main campus, the time between classes was extended to 20 minutes this year, Dower said.

“It’s just far enough away from campus to make it a chore to get down there,” Dower said.

For this reason, student lounges were created to give students a place to relax between classes, Dower said.

When students do commute between campuses, it is important that they are respectful of the property in the neighborhood, McKenna said.

“However you’re getting between main campus and Spring Valley, understand that a bunch of people live in this neighborhood,” McKenna said. “Even though [students are] just walking back and forth, they’re still being ambassadors for the University to the neighborhood.”

Karina Guzman, an Administrative Assistant in the School of Education with an office in the building, said she prefers the new space as compared to the School of Education’s former location which was primarily in Gray Hall and MGC. She said it is spacious and has good lighting.

“It is an older building, but they renovated it completely on the inside and it looks very corporate and it looks very nice, very modern,” Guzman said. “Before, MGC was a nice building, but Grey Hall used to be a dorm so it was kind of a complete contrast.”

The University sold three buildings (4545 42nd Street, 4000 Brandywine and 4620 Wisconsin) which were previously used to a local development and property management firm, Dower said in an email. Some of the other spaces that were formerly occupied by groups that have moved to Spring Valley are now being used as classrooms or are being converted into administrative spaces for other groups, McKenna said.

Later in the semester, McKenna said that there will be surveys to get student feedback about the changes.

“I’m just interested in people’s feedback generally about the Spring Valley Building and then about the time between classes,” McKenna said.

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