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Summer Construction Spruces Up W&L Campus

Washington and Lee’s campus is a hub of activity this summer, with a variety of projects underway to maintain the historic campus and enhance undergraduate teaching spaces. The work ranges from the completion of Payne Hall’s restoration, to the installation of new turf on an athletic field, to the continuing implementation of the campus landscape master plan.

“Compared with last summer, when we were undertaking significant work on the core campus, I think this summer’s projects may not appear to have the same level of impact,” said Steve McAllister, vice president for finance and treasurer. “But it is a fairly typical summer in terms of the number of projects that are underway.”

Lee House Landscape Maintenance and Improvements

More than 6,000 guests participate in University events at Lee House throughout the year, and the turf cannot withstand that level of use without extensive repairs to maintain the grass. According to Carole Bailey, construction project manager at W&L, much of the landscape has become overgrown to the point that key areas of the property were unusable.

“A number of plants are obscuring the architectural character of the Lee House, and the level of required maintenance to keep the plants in bounds increases every year,” Bailey said. “Our aim is to simplify and organize the landscape. The best of the landscape and plants from the 1992 Garden Club of Virginia efforts will be retained as the backbone of a thoughtful renovation.”

Bailey said W&L will ensure that the renewed landscape conforms to the key principles of the landscape master plan, which the University adopted in 2010, by using the best native and historically appropriate plants for the garden precinct. Siteworks Studio, in Charlottesville, created the master plan.

The University will incorporate a brick terrace into the landscape to support the large number of gatherings at the house. So doing will help avoid the constant turf maintenance required for such events.

“We will select a balanced combination of lawn, ground covers, shrubs and trees for their ability to flourish and be admired for many decades to come,” Bailey said. “We’ll magnify the success of the landscape by using plants that will be long-lived and require minimal maintenance.”

In addition to the work on the yard, repair and rebuilding of the chimneys of the historic Lee House have been underway since earlier in the summer.

The Lee House landscape work is being paid for capital funds allocated for implementation of the campus landscape master plan.

Gilliam Admissions House Landscaping and Additional Parking

One of the key areas the master plan identified for improvement was the front of the Gilliam Admissions House. This summer’s work there “is a direct result of recommendations to address inadequate and difficult-to-access visitor parking at Admissions,” said McAllister. “Siteworks quickly homed in and developed a recommended concept to resolve the issue.” Accordingly, there will be 14 new parking spaces for admissions visitors.

“We are still finalizing the designs,” Bailey said. “But we hope to have the spaces available in early fall.”

Alpha Delta Pi Sorority House

This University’s sixth sorority house is adjacent to the five houses that opened in 2000. Alpha Delta Pi will have 20 beds plus a director’s suite. It will be ready for occupancy on Aug. 1, according to Bailey.

The architects designed Alpha Delta Pi house to be almost identical to the other five houses, although there are a few differences based on changes in building codes and ADA requirements, along with the University’s commitment to seek LEED certification on its new construction and renovation projects.

“The differences will be slight,” said Bailey. “There was a great deal of attention given to parity in the design and construction in order to make sure that students all have the same kinds of resources in the house.”

Payne Hall Restoration

The Department of English will move back into Payne Hall during the week of July 25, according to Tom Kalasky, director of design and construction. Faculty and staff will discover a vastly improved building that is comparable to the 2009-2010 historic rehabilitation of Newcomb Hall.

Payne Hall is the second phase of what is now a five-phase rehabilitation and restoration of the historic Colonnade. Newcomb was completed a year ago. The Colonnade project is one of the main priorities in the University’s capital campaign, “Honor Our Past, Build Our Future: The Campaign for Washington and Lee.”

“The buildings on the Colonnade will have a similar feel,” said Kalasky. “Each of the buildings has its individual personality and architectural features as well as programmatic needs. But there will be a common thread with the finishes and level of amenities. It is simple but elegant. We don’t want to distract from the historic fabric of the building.”

As was the case with Newcomb, the University has incorporated all the modern academic technologies into the building, along with new mechanical, electrical and fire-prevention systems. Faculty offices have been reconfigured with increased bookshelf space and new furniture.

At the same time, much of the building’s character remains, including the original slate blackboards in the classrooms.

“When you consider that those slate blackboards are now in rooms with ceiling projectors and recessed screens and equipment to capture lectures, you have more than 100 years of technology in each of those rooms,” Kalasky said.

Washington Hall Restoration

The summer game of musical offices will get underway in mid-July, when occupants of Washington Hall move to temporary quarters in anticipation of work beginning on that project in early September.

The offices of the president, provost and the vice president for University advancement will move to the renovated Mattingly House on the corner of Washington and Lee streets. The Classics Department and the office of the dean of the College will be relocated to Baker Dorm, which has served as swing space this past year for the English Department.

Kalasky said that at present, the schedule for the Washington Hall work is September 2011 to December 2012.

“We have already developed a site logistics plan for our construction fencing and lay-down areas,” Kalasky said. “Once everyone has moved out, we will start our activities there. We hoped to have the approval of the Board of Trustees to begin on Sept. 1, but I expect that we will operate with a phased approach.”

The current cost estimate for the Washington Hall phase of the overall Colonnade project is $7.5 million.

One of the features of the Washington Hall project that will be different from either Newcomb or Payne is the building’s lobby, which features the Honored Benefactors Wall. That area contains the names of those individuals who have given $1 million or more to the University.

“Last spring, President Ruscio invited a committee to recommend a design plan for the lobby that would honor George Washington’s philanthropy to W&L, connect future support to that tradition and create a welcoming destination that reinforces the centrality of Washington Hall to the visitor and student experience,” Kalasky said.

The fourth phase of the Colonnade project, tentatively scheduled to begin in January 2013, will be the restoration of Robinson Hall.

Replacement of Turf Field

After 10 years of heavy use, the artificial surface of the W&L Turf Field is being replaced. The surface will continue to be a knitted nylon product of the sort known generically as AstroTurf. The field is home to Washington and Lee’s field hockey team and also serves as an alternate practice and game field for soccer, football and lacrosse. The University also uses it for intramurals, club sports and recreational use.

“This is a life-cycle replacement,” said Kalasky, “and the surface is what is preferred for field hockey. Although it is similar to what was on the field, it is a product made by a different company. And, in the 10 years since we first installed a turf field, there have been significant improvements in this generation of turf.”

In addition to the new surface, Kalasky said, a sprinkler system has been installed to help automate the procedure of wetting down the field prior to games.