Old Main construction to be completed in April 2014
Alexander Plaumann // The Daily Wildcat
Employees of Dickens Quality Demolition work on interior renovations in Old Main, on Tuesday, Aug. 27, on the University of Arizona campus. Renovations have been ongoing over the summer, in preparation for a new and improved Old Main.
UA staff is attempting to modernize Old Main while preserving its historic appeal.
Scheduled for completion by April 2014, the renovation project is expected to cost $13.5 million. What was previously being worked on was exploratory construction, demolition and design, as well as some reinforcement of the foundation, according to Peter Dourlein, assistant vice president for UA Planning, Design and Construction. Currently, the porches, roof, stairs and second floor ceiling are being renovated, Dourlein added.
The porches helped preserve the building over the years by shielding it from the elements and diverting water away from the base of the building, which was built in 1891 without a deep foundation. The bricks on the porch columns will be preserved while the wooden support beams inside the columns will be replaced with steel ones, Dourlein said.
Inside the building, the second-floor space is being transformed to look like it did before the ceiling was lowered to make space for the various plumbing and air-conditioning equipment that was installed in the attic over the years. The openness created by the higher ceilings will be enhanced by the addition of several skylights, Dourlein said.
Another aspect of the historical preservation, which Dourlein compared to “building a ship in a bottle,” is the addition of energy efficient heating and cooling units and a modernized fire suppression system.
“[Old Main] is the cultural and historic icon of the campus. It is our heart and soul,” Dourlein said. “The historic preservation will extend the useful life of the building and allow it to serve contemporary functions for years to come.”
Taking pictures in front of Old Main is one of the traditions associated with the building. However, the construction and the fences around the site pose problems for students hoping to get that perfect shot.
Last semester, the fences were removed for a period of time for senior pictures. However, with the increased construction this semester, that may not be possible.
“When you think of U of A, this is one of the buildings you think of, and I can imagine a lot of seniors wanted their pictures here,” said Fabiola Foto, a sociology senior. “It’s a little bit disappointing. I mean, not the end of the world, but they should’ve accommodated students better on that one honestly.”
Although Dourlein said he would like to open the fences for senior pictures this semester, “getting it done and getting it done safely … with fences around it and security and things like that are our top priorities,” Dourlein said.
The project was prompted in part by a flood that caused the evacuation of Old Main during February 2012. Offices that were housed in Old Main, such as the Office of Admissions and the Dean of Students Office, had to be relocated.
“It’s always hard when you have to move, but we definitely understood the building needed renovations very severely,” said Kasey Urquidez, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of undergraduate admissions. “We didn’t mind relocating for the time being, so we could allow that to happen.”
The Dean of Students Office will remain permanently in the Nugent
building. The Office of Admissions, which has operated out of Bear Down Gymnasium since the flood, will move back into Old Main after the renovations are complete.
Along with student services, the offices of some senior administrators would also move into the building. The office of UA President Ann Weaver Hart could potentially be among those, Dourlein said.
After Old Main is restored, Dourlein said Bear Down Gym and the old Chemistry building are next on the list for renovation.
-Follow Mark Armao @MarkGnarly