Construction kicks off on Regenstein Library expansion

By Max Corey

The construction trucks recently parked on the Max Palevsky tennis courts have surprised passersby and frustrated anyone interested in playing a round of spring tennis.

The trucks represent one of the first steps in the construction of the Regenstein Library’s new shelving space addition, approved by the Board of Trustees in May 2005 and designed to provide space for 3.5 million new volumes.

The trucks were used to test the soil’s suitability for the Regenstein addition, said members of the addition’s design team.

The tests will analyze the structural and foundational strength of the ground before construction begins, although the results of tests conducted prior to construction of the Max Palevsky complex indicate that builders should expect few surprises, said Jim Vaughan, assistant director for Access Services and Facilities.

The $42 million addition is scheduled to be completed by spring 2010, with official construction beginning in 2008.

In February 2006, a University selection committee chose architect Helmut Jahn of the award-winning Chicago-based Murphy/Jahn architectural firm to design the addition. Jahn has completed multiple schematic designs that are cur- rently under review by the University’s Capital Projects Committee (CPC).

The CPC, consisting of the President, Provost, and other upper administration officials, will then make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, which will review and approve the final design this quarter. The Board will meet next on May 31, although it is not yet known whether the library addition will be discussed.

Although he did not reveal the schematic designs, Vaughan expressed praise for Jahn’s work. “Helmut Jahn is a world-class architect. He is very talented and has a great respect for the University and the library. The firm wants to design a world-class building and has exceeded everyone’s hopes,” Vaughan said.

After completion, new materials such as a high-density automated shelving system will be installed in the addition. While the board has approved $42 million to expand the Regenstein’s current volume space, it is possible that the budget will increase, Vaughan said.

“The budget is being determined now. $42 million was made in May 2005 and that was before Katrina,” Vaughan said. Building supplies have become more expensive since then, he added.

Project officials have not yet asked for additional money, said Mike Natarus, senior project manager of Facilities Services.

As for traffic and noise concerns, all efforts will be made to accommodate students and the public, Natarus said.

“Any construction will have a fair amount of noise, I don’t want to be misleading. will probably be similar to the CBD”],” Natarus said, referring to the Center for Biomedical Discovery, which broke ground in October 2005.

“We’ll try and accommodate students’ needs and consider final exams and work close with the library to make sure that students are able to study. But, we do have to meet deadlines,” he said.

Students may also have a few chances left to play tennis on the popular Palevsky courts. The tennis courts will eventually be torn down after a contractor is chosen to build the addition, Natarus said.

While the process may be progressing slowly, Natarus expressed excitement about the project.

“It’s been a great project to work on. It’s very unique, especially working with Helmut Jahn. It’s not your everyday condominium being built,” he said.