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Site Work Begins on W&L’s New Hillel House

Site preparation work has begun on Washington and Lee University’s new Hillel House project on Washington Street.

Hillel House is a $4 million project that will create a physical home for Jewish life on the W&L campus. More than 170 individual and couples made gifts and commitments to the project, which was aided by major challenge pledges from two trustees, Donald Childress of Atlanta and Mark Eaker of Austin, Tex.

According to Michael Carmagnola, chief facilities officer at W&L, the first two stages of the project will involve tree removal at the site followed by the removal of the existing Howard House.

Carmagnola said that several of the trees that are being removed are diseased and damaged while other are necessary to accommodate the new construction.

“While the site may look worse before it looks better, the design of the new Hillel House is very sensitive to its surroundings,” Carmagnola said. “There will also be a net increase of about six trees from the current amount in the final landscape plan as well as extensive foundation plantings.”

Once the works on the trees has been completed, the Howard House will be removed, and Carmagnola noted that materials from the existing house will be salvaged where possible and a large portion of the construction debris will be recycled and diverted from the landfill in support of the University’s green initiatives and application for LEED certification.

Once these two major site activities are completed by mid-August, the construction site will be fenced and secured. The site preparation will result in closure of several parking spaces and once the construction begins about six parking spaces will remain unavailable.

The new building was designed by the Richmond-based architectural firm of Glave and Holmes, which specializes in creating “context-specific design that fits seamlessly into the cultural and historical milieu of a given community.”

Carmagnola said that the proposed design recalls, in many ways, the current building that is being replaced on the site.

“Architectural elements that have been brought forward include pitched metal roofs, a front porch, traditionally-scaled windows, and clapboard siding and trim,” he said. “The architects worked closely with Charlottesville landscape architects Van Yahres to ensure that the building was well sited and scaled to its context.”

Plans currently call for Hillel House to open for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Watch a time-lapse video showing the old Howard House being demolished: