REBECCA BAINER —General Assignment Reporter
Walking around campus students might notice a number of renovations from large projects like the construction of a new parking garage or smaller upgrades like the installation of new electrical equipment.
Bob Sheeley, associate vice president of capital budgeting and facilities operations, said construction is common for the university, but the level of work being done is not.
“We always have a number of projects going on at any given time especially in the summer months when we have less students on campus,” said Shee¬ley, “a lot depends on funding too.”
This summer, Sheeley said some of those projects included the completed renovations to Farnham Hall and a replacement of the synthetic surface at Jess Dow Field. The turf must be replaced about every 10-12 years.
“What happens,” said Sheeley, “is the sun breaks down the synthetic surface and it starts to disintegrate.”
Sheeley said he thinks one of the most exciting projects is the renovation of the old student center to be the new School of Business. The school is currently located in Seabury Hall, a building that is set to be demolished after the student center is ready for the move.
“The faculty for the School of Business have been living in an office space that is less than desirable for a number of years,” said Sheeley, “We’ve been wishing for this project for a number of years and now it’s actually happening.”
Ellen D. Durnin, Ph.D. and dean of the School of Business, said the new building will be state of the art where members of the business community can be invited for meetings and events.
“I think the School of Business will finally have a home that is appropriate for a school of business,” said Durnin, “where we can invite in members of the business community and provide the services that our students and faculty members should have.”
Durnin said the new building will be a big change from the School of Business’ current location where there isn’t any space for meetings.
“We want the business community to see us as the go-to business school,” said Durnin, “as a partner in the kinds of things they are trying to do.”
Durnin said the building will be wireless, will have a student resource center, a room for the finance trading team and will further enhance the look of Southern’s campus.
“Faculty and students, they’ve been waiting for this for so long and to see it finally come together is energizing everybody,” said Durnin. “It will just really transform this end of campus.”
The University has a master plan in which there is usually a five or 10-year update. This is a process where a committee is formed that decides what adjustments need to be made, according to James Blake, executive vice president of capital budgeting and facilities operations. He said once the plan is developed, it goes to the Board of Trustees.
“From start to finish it can take a number of years,” said Blake. “It deals with fund¬ing and just the process itself. There’s a program element, design element and the actual construction.”
Blake said some of the projects and upgrades are helping the campus be more environmentally friendly by conserving energy and allowing Southern to be more efficient.
“With Brownell, they’re replacing the roof and putting some solar panels up there to help with the energy uses,” said Blake. “One of the goals of the University is to continue being a good citizen of our environment.”
One project that will begin in September is the construction of a new parking garage that will be on the side of Moore Field House. Blake said the construction will displace about 380 parking spots but administration is working toward replacing those spots in other areas around campus before the construction begins.
“When you look at universities across the country [and] the top-three issues with students, parking is one of them,” said Blake. “We’re in a period here where for 15-18 months with the construction it’s going to be a challenge, but in the end we’re going to gain about 850 new parking spots.”
Sheeley said Police Chief Dooley is working on a plan for addressing the presumed parking issues when construction starts, closing Lot 7. Students will be receiving emails addressing parking updates.
Sheeley said it’s important for everyone to understand that although there is a budget crunch, the money spent on these projects is different than operating money, money used for utilities and janitorial supplies.
“People need to understand this is different, this is money that has been allocated years ago,” said Sheeley. “By going through with these projects hopefully you’ll help the economy and put people to work.”