University plans campus renovations

By Joel Lanceta

As construction of several new buildings on campus nears completion, University officials announced that they are starting to turn their attention toward the upkeep of some of the University?s older buildings.

?The University currently spends over $20 million a year on maintenance, though we could be all the way up to doubling that,? President Randel said.

Randel explained the work on existing campus buildings as part of the University?s goal to maintain a healthy and operational community, admitting that the University has had a backlog of maintenance.

Comparing the University?s maintenance to peer institutions, Randel stated that Chicago was in the middle of the pack, but that it should be spending more.

The Board of Trustees recently approved a $21 million renovation of the International House (I-House) to begin this summer.

?Several years ago, the major issue was that we needed to do a lot of work, especially geared towards I-House,? said Meredith Mack, associate vice president for University facilities services. ?While we get through the new constructions, we?re going to do some major constructions on infrastructure.?

Henry Pernet, director of I-House, described the renovation in three stages: exterior repair of the façade, windows, and roof; infrastructure repair, replacing its 70-year old plumbing system, electrical wirings, and elevator upgrading; and redecoration of many of the rooms.

?This renovation project is founded on our conviction that the University of Chicago has a real need for affordable housing and that I-House meets it,? Pernet said, explaining that I-House offers the easiest solution for students who cannot come to campus ahead of time to search for a place to live or roommates to share an apartment. ?With newly renovated facilities and a revitalized image, I-House will be able to fulfill its mission: to promote understanding and mutual respect between people of different backgrounds and cultures.?

The McCormick Theological Seminary on 5555 South Woodlawn Avenue, a building the University recently acquired to house the new Center for Alumni Affairs, will also undergo renovations.

Randy Holgate, vice president of development and alumni relations described the new facilities.

?The Center will be a campus portal for alumni visiting campus with meeting space for volunteers, a business center for alumni visitors, and a comfortable spot to rest, get information, etc.,? Holgate said. ?The Center will continue a long tradition and, for the first time, will be funded through alumni gifts.?

Shoreland Hall is also being considered for repair though specific plans are still under discussion. Restoration of Shoreland?s terra cotta and brick exterior could soar into the tens of millions of dollars, Randel said.

While these renovations go on, the University is looking ahead to other constructions continuing the Campus Master Plan. The Master Plan, initiated in 1998, was designed for the University to better utilize campus land and buildings for expansion, and to benefit student life while retaining the historic characteristic of the original Gothic quads.

Some of the achieved goals of the Master Plan included the Max Palevsky Residential Commons, Bartlett Dinning Commons and the Ratner Athletic Center, soon to be completed.

One goal of the Master Plan not realized yet is a visual arts center. According to Janel Mueller, dean of the humanities division and co-chair of the working group of faculty members proposing the arts center, a projected center for visual and performing arts would be constructed to form an interdisciplinary complex around a renovated Midway Studios, at 60th Street and Ingleside Avenue.

The center would include spaces for art-making and electronic studios, a pair of black-box theatres, a film vault, and key interactive facilities like a café and lounge area, shared computing, and possibly classrooms, offices, and a conference room.

For Mueller, bringing the proposal to life is a major opportunity for her and the student body.

?I am completely convinced that this is the right moment to bring critical and creative engagement into newly vital interaction here at Chicago, both through curricular offerings and through co-curricular activities,? Mueller said. ?The will is here, the interest and energy are abundant, among both students and faculty. We now need to find the means to do this and do it rigorously and innovatively?which is our Chicago way.

Steve Klass, vice-president and dean of students in the University, believes that the new constructions and modernizations of buildings will promote a closer and more vibrant student body without directly adding on to student tuition.

?I-House plays an important role in the lives of our international students, in providing programs of interest to the entire University community and in providing important meeting and living space,? Klass said. ?[The Graduate School of Business and the Ratner Athletic Center] are important to our goals of providing world-class facilities that support the academic enterprise and improve the quality of student and faculty life at this world class institution.?

The Ratner Athletic Center is projected to be finished by the fall of 2003, the Graduate School of Business?s new campus by the fall of 2004, and the Interdivisional Research Building in 2005.

According to Klass the University is also currently looking into developing the area south of Midway, between 60th and 61st Streets, for a possible new undergraduate dorm to be built, although he said these plans are far in the future.