Williams Hall construction stalled, renovations to continue into summer

Original – April 16, 2015 – Published here: http://thebrownandwhite.com/2015/04/16/williams-hall-set-home-global-commons-june/ 

Renovations to Williams Hall, which are scheduled to be finished by the end of the Spring 2015 semester, have been stalled due to weather conditions and prior rushed construction.

Julia Parker, the university architect and the director of campus planning, said there have been setbacks to the construction plans, such as adverse weather conditions and amending structural issues.

“The construction of the fourth floor was done extremely quickly and we’ve uncovered—as we’ve gone through the project—a lot of deficiencies in the construction of the fourth floor and we are rectifying that as we go through,” she said. “We had difficulty doing the exterior work because of the cold winter conditions.”

In 1958, there was a fire in Williams Hall. The fire did damage to the upper part of the building. The university then reconstructed the upper floors, added a fourth floor and flattened the roof to how it looked until recently.

Parker said the construction after the fire was hastily finished and has accounted for many of the setbacks in the current renovations. The current renovations will be restoring the roof of Williams Hall to what it was before the fire.

“We have mimicked the old roof style, except now it’s up one more story,” she said. “(The roof) will be meant in part to cover the mechanical equipment that’s below it and in part to mimic the original roof.”

The interior is expected to be done at the end of May or early June of this year. Departments will start to be moved into the building at the beginning of June, once classes are over.

Parker said there will still be some work to be done, mostly on the exterior and the greenhouse, after the departments move into the building.

“Our colleagues in facilities services have kept us apprised and involved in the Williams Hall renovation project,” said John Smeaton, the vice provost for student affairs.

The modern languages and literature, religion studies and sociology and anthropology departments are all making the move to Williams Hall. The Office of Interdisciplinary Programs and Student Affairs will also join them.

These departments and offices have all been kept up to date on the renovations and the project’s progress.

“We have (been updated on what’s going on),” said Sherry Buss, the administrative director of interdisciplinary programs. “I’ve been involved from the start. The expectation is that we will be moved in and settled by the next academic year.”

Many members of these departments expressed happiness about their upcoming move. The department of modern languages and literature is currently located in Maginnes Hall. Antonio Prieto, the chair of the department, said their offices are not comparable to the ones in Williams Hall.

“We’re very excited (about moving),” Prieto said. “We are excited to be in a building with this global and international theme.”

According to the Lehigh University official website, Williams Hall will also be home to a future Herbert A. Roemmele ’53 Global Commons. This area will be “a two-level gathering place that will feature flat screen televisions streaming global news and information.”

“The programs we service are spread around campus, so for us to be centralized will be really helpful,” Buss said.

Buss also said she hopes the new Global Commons can foster discussion of world events between students.

“It’s going to be a place that students will want to come and it will be an active place,” she said, “I’m excited for more student interaction and flow through the building.”

In addition to the Global Commons, Parker said there will be a new food option in Williams Hall, similar to Common Grounds. This part of the project will not be finished until about mid-summer, just in time for when students return to campus.

After the Williams Hall renovations are complete, campus planning will be focusing on the University Center.

“We’ve been working on developing a conceptual plan for the University Center,” Parker said. “The next step will be to go into schematic design and actually start coming up with a design for a renovated University Center.”

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