The newly renovated squash court building, now known as 41 Wyllys Ave., opened its doors to students on January 26 after completing construction that began in Jan. 2011. The building is home to the College of Letters (COL), the Art History department, and the newly renamed Career Center. Students are invited to the official grand opening, ribbon cutting ceremony, and reception for the building, which will be held on Feb. 24.
According to Construction Senior Manager Alan Rubacha, faculty and staff were moved into the building on Jan. 16. He said that the last few months of construction went smoothly, and that his team was happy with the final outcome.
“The unseasonable warmth and lack of snow really helped us get done on time,” Rubacha wrote in an email to The Argus. “We are thrilled with every single detail of the building. We completed the project without any injuries, it was on time and on budget.”
Rubacha estimates that the project cost $8.6 million, which was the original budget for the project. He added that if they retain a favorable contingency balance over the new few weeks and have the funds to do so, then they will purchase a green roof for the building to increase efficiency. Even without the green roof, Rubacha said that the building will likely earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification, which is awarded for sustainable building design and operation.
“We do not know for sure yet what the LEED certification is, we are working through that documentation now,” he wrote. “We will know for sure in the third quarter of this year. We appear to be on track for Gold.”
The building features water-efficient landscaping, low-water flow fixtures and electronic devices, sustainable light controls, and a green cleaning policy. Rubacha noted the only minor problem that occurred during construction was that they found out the shades they had planned on installing had been discontinued. He said they quickly regrouped and found a suitable alternative.
Director of the Career Center Mike Sciola said he believes the new building will bring more students to the Career Center because it is in a more prominent location than its previous home in Butterfield A.
“The fact that we’re right next to Usdan and we’re on the most visible corner of the new building is really exciting,” he said. “We built the place with lots of glass, so the whole point is to draw students in early and often.”
The new Career Center will also feature a multipurpose career commons with a broadcast suite. The suite has a Cisco TelePresence system, where students can engage in webinars and teleconferences with alumni and employers. There are also two new interview rooms with the same teleconferencing capabilities.
“We can set up all these conversations and opportunities for students that are not requiring the employer to drive to Middletown,” Sciola said.
The Center will also record programs and put them on its website for students who are abroad or unable to attend. They also plan to start a Lunch and Learn series in February, where students will be able to get lunch in Usdan and stop into the Career Center for basic workshops on things like interviewing, resumes, and internships.
“We’re trying to make it so that students find their experience working with us as efficient as possible, and that we get right to the question they need answered,” Sciola said. “[We want] to make it so that you don’t have to physically come here and that a lot of the information that you need is easily available to you. Therefore your time with a counselor is really helping with the big questions.”
On Feb. 25, a day after the building’s grand opening, the Career Center will host a career symposium. The keynote speaker will be MTV President Stephen Friedman ’91, and there will be panels with alumni and parents throughout the day, all culminating in a celebration and networking event that afternoon.
Sciola said that there has already been lots of collaboration with the COL and Art History departments throughout the design process for the building.
“College of Letters, Art History, and the Career Center all were represented during the entire design phase,” he said. “So we’ve all gotten to know each other in different ways these last two years as we were starting to write on paper what it was that we were looking for.”
Professor of Art History Elizabeth Milroy said that she believes the new building will foster a better working environment for Art History faculty than their previous location in the Davison Art Center.
“The Art Historians were sort of isolated there [at the Davison Art Center] and it’s nice to be in a building that’s a lot more convivial,” she said. “It’s a lot easier for the students to find us, and it’s a lot more collegial. We were all over the place in that house, so it was often times that someone would be in there working and you’d hardly see anyone else.”
Chair of the Art and Art History Department Joseph Siry said that the building will also strengthen connections with COL faculty.
“Art History faculty have had many ties to COL faculty over the years, and I think it will be intellectually enriching for us to be close together rather than at opposite ends of campus,” he wrote in an email to The Argus. “Out my office window, I see Eclectic’s portico, so I can commune spiritually with its architect, Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial.”
Professor of Letters Laurie Nussdorfer was similarly excited about the new space.
“I saw the building for the first time this afternoon and I love it,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Argus last Thursday. “From my observation point as a member of the COL faculty it’s an energizing and transformative space and we are thrilled to be there.”
Siry said that the offices in the new building offer more shelf and drawer space for books and files. The Visual Resource Center, which contains the slides and images that many Art History faculty use in lectures, has also been relocated to the new building. Siry and others expressed their gratitude to the construction and architectural teams for their work on the project.
“Colleagues in Art History, COL, and the Career Center have told me over and over this week how pleased they are with our new situation,” he wrote. “The architects did a very fine job in responding to a wide range of programmatic concerns, and many structural and environmental details, as did the contractors who built it. The interior spaces look quite nice and the exteriors are most carefully thought out in relation to both the existing shell of the old Squash Courts Building and the Usdan Campus Center next door.”
Milroy noted that this renovated building shows the importance of reusing existing buildings, and she hoped that the University would use a similar approach for the Davison Art Center now that the Art History department has relocated.
“It’s always hard to work on an existing building,” she said. “I teach historic preservation and its really important that we are able to show how much better it is to reuse an existing building and how that can produce a new and very sustainable, green environment without having to tear it all down and start over again.”