The Smith Memorial Center construction, which began June 10 of this year, should have been completed by September 30th, but is behind schedule.
The Smith Center has been under renovation, in separate phases, since 1998. The current phase is in its final weeks of completion and has included fourth floor remodeling and “life safety” construction, such as alarms, sprinklers and other emergency devices.
Chris Cooksy, project manager and architect in the Facilities department, said that the construction contractor, Sierra Construction, is running slow partly due to unforeseeable setbacks. Cooksy said, “The building throws us some unhittable pitches.”
One of the setbacks was the discovery of asbestos in various locations. Cooksy explained that while the amount of asbestos found poses a very minor health risk, it is a serious liability for the contractor, who must stop construction and have an asbestos abatement contractor intervene.
Alan Brown, director of Smith Center, said, “Asbestos abatement was the first thing we did … the southeast corner of the building had a lot of asbestos in it … as we went along we would come across small bits of it.”
The ongoing process of stopping construction and having the asbestos removed or encapsulated contributed to the delay in finishing the current phase of the project.
Another major setback was the discovery that parts of the building were unfinished above the ceiling. Fire and building codes required these issues to be resolved which added to the late completion date.
These two setbacks were the primary causes of the project going over its budget by about ten percent. The actual costs for the current phase is about one million dollars, according to Cooksy and Brown.
Clevonne Jackson, director of the educational opportunity program (EOP), expressed mixed feelings about her office’s move to the fourth floor as a result of the renovations. The new office is split into two spaces, each on opposite sides of the fourth floor corridor. Jackson said, “We have lost a sense of community,” referring to this split.
The combination of having windows that look into the corridor and moving to a high traffic location has posed both advantages and disadvantages. The downside, according to Jackson, is, “We have major theft … we have to be more careful now about leaving things unattended because of the glass.”
A positive consequence of higher visibility and traffic is an increase in involvement. Jackson said, “More students are coming in asking about the program. We have a waiting list for the first time in six years.”
The Women’s Resource Center has also been impacted by the renovations. They moved from the fourth floor down to the southeast corner of the basement. Amy Shattuck, co-coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center and graduate student in the school of social work, said that most people have a hard time finding them because of their location.
The next phase of construction will include improvements to the Broadway entrance of Smith Center. The information desk will be visible as people walk in, and the lobby will have two levels. All of the active student organizations will be located on the second level.
Cooksy said that if everything goes as planned, bidding for construction will begin in January of next year and construction will begin in March, with the expected finish date of September. The forecasted budget is one and a half million dollars.
Shattuck is looking forward to the new location that the renovations will provide her office. However, she stressed the importance that the new office be conducive to the sensitive nature of her organization’s role.
She said, “We’ve been trying to put the bug in people’s ears that we’re going to want a space with walls because we deal with some confidential information and people are going to want a secure place to come in and ask questions about things like domestic violence.”
She also gave a word of advice about the organization of the renovation project. Shattuck said, “One of the things that would help during the renovation would be having signs put up. Even the directories are wrong!”
Liv McClelland, a graduate student in public administration, is also looking forward to the changes. She said, “When it’s all put together it will be really great. Kind of like one stop shopping, you can get everything you need in one place.”
Currently the total cost of the Smith Center renovations, since the first phase started in 1998, is approximately three million, two hundred thousand dollars. Funding is provided by student fees.
David Jimenez, station manager of KPSU and third year political science major, sits on the Smith Advisory Board and the renovation committee. He explained that some of the student fees that were originally allocated to other buildings, were redirected to the Smith Center renovation project. He said, “It was put as a priority building to deal with first before some of the other ones.”
Another future phase of construction may include converting the west side of the fourth floor, currently occupied by the student development offices, into a student lounge.
However, Cooksy said he is unsure whether this proposal will develop further because of funding issues.