Commons renovations to continue

Physical Plant outlines upcoming upgrades and construction projects

By Hunter Ellis, Multimedia Managing Editor

Physical Plant took on a dozen construction projects over summer break, including significant changes to Commons Apartments and Brockman Hall.

While the work in Brockman Hall was mostly completed this summer, other projects including the Commons, the disc golf course and the addition of an auxiliary gym at Cintas Center are ongoing.

Only half of the Commons Apartments were redone over the summer. On the left, the building was updated with new paint, carpet and light  fixtures. The right side of the building remains untouched.
Newswire photos by Hunter Ellis

According to Director of Construction Tim Trucco, the lingering effects of COVID-19 and several natural disasters had an effect on supply chains and labor availability, which presented substantial obstacles compared to previous years.

Limited availability of resin materials from Texas and window hardware from overseas are two examples Trucco cited from the Commons construction that ultimately led to the projects’ delayed completion.  

In addition, although the university purchased new appliances for the apartments in February, supplies will not arrive until around Christmas due to pent-up demand.

“I am pleased to say that we at least got everything done enough to get everybody where they needed to be,” Trucco said. “Students moved into their residence halls. Faculty are in their offices, and that’s always our goal: to get the work done so that the business of the university can continue,” he added.

Trucco noted that the plan for Commons Apartments was always a phased construction approach, with one half of the building being updated with new paint, lighting and carpets.

Pictured above is a comparison of an updated hallway (left) and an unrenovated hallway (right) inside the Commons Apartments. 
Newswire photos by Hunter Ellis

Physical Plant plans to complete the rest of the renovations on the building next summer.

Meanwhile, Physical Plant undertook the disc golf project after a joint initiative by Student Government Association and Recreational Sports identified the need and raised the funding for the 18-hole course, according to Trucco. All that remains on that project is the directional signage to complete the layout of the course.

In addition to the completion of these projects, Physical Plant is also beginning to look at other projects it will target in the future. 

Trucco noted that with the change of the presidential administration, most of Physical Plant’s priorities have remained the same, but some projects have been put on hold.

“(Physical Plant’s) priorities haven’t changed yet. A lot of things that have been in motion or are still in motion… (but) with the new university administration in place, there is a step back being taken to make sure that we are all still aligned on the overall strategic plan,” Trucco said.

One unchanged priority is the renovation of McGrath, which used to host health and counseling services. The design process has been restarted to convert the space for use by the communications department.

Trucco also expects large-scale changes in the near future to West Campus, with projects including significant renovations to the Armory and Joseph Hall, the redevelopment of the hillside and the demolition of Schmidt Fieldhouse.

The next phase of updates to ALL Card readers across campus include most of the upperclassman housing options, including Justice Hall, Village Apartments, Manor House and 1019 Dana.

However, the renovation of McDonald Memorial Library, a project Vice President of Facilities Robert Sheeran called a top priority in January of 2020, is currently on hold.

“(The Library) is being looked at to make sure that it is still the right priority — because it will be a major project. With a new Provost coming on and having a new president in place right now, the University wants to make sure that all the missions align and that’s the right place for the next major project,” Trucco said.

As for the plans to add a new on-campus residence to create more space for students, Trucco noted the plan is still in a holding pattern.

“Additional student housing is still deferred… More information is being collected on the true housing needs versus the inventory that we have,” Trucco said. “As it stands right now, we believe that capacities are OK and will remain OK for a few years to come.”