Construction impacts campus

Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

​​New construction is taking place on the University of North Alabama campus this fall.

The largest project in development currently is the construction of the new Computing and Mathematics building. Updates are being made to improve the Communication building and Lafayette Hall. Construction is in place to expand the faculty and staff parking lot on North Wood Ave, and plans are being finalized to demolish LaGrange Hall to make room for more housing that meets safety and quality standards.

“Providing a better face to campus is our goal,” said Kevin Hudson, Director of Facilities Administration and Planning.

The new Computing and Mathematics Building will be the largest development on campus in the next two years. Although the project has gained the nickname “the new math building,” this facility will also house computer science and information systems.

“A big bonus for us is we’ll be housed with computer science,” said Dr. Cindy Stenger, who has been a professor of Mathematics at UNA for 20 years. “ I think it will be so nice for students to be able to meet and collaborate.”

The building will feature state of the art computer lab technologies and include study rooms for students.

“There’s a lot of good hangout areas. One of the best parts is going to be the view. You’re on top of that hill. You’ve got glass. It’s going to be a great area to host events and things and really look over the redeveloped Founder’s Hill,” Hudson said.

The estimated time for completion of the project is the spring semester of the 2024 school year.The goal is for completion by January, but the end of the semester is a safer estimate.

“If we can get it by January 2024, that would be great, but if we have problems and we can’t get the equipment we need and there’s rain it may be the end of that semester,” Hudson said. Rumors circulated that the amphitheater would undergo construction and potentially be moved or reoriented. Hudson confirms that this is not a plan as of now, but the idea was considered in the early planning stages. Originally, the university wanted to realign the amphitheater to face towards the new building, instead of facing the library, however, this was out of budget and would require near total reconstruction of the area.

“We’ve got a nice new building going up that’s turned from it and is turned more towards the library. We would like for that structure to be turned towards the new building; it’s just very expensive to do that,” Hudson said.

The construction team is working on site stabilization and installing underground power lines to prevent squirrels from chewing on them. The project is still suffering from the results of supply shortages caused by COVID-19. There have been issues getting paint, motherboards and HVAC equipment, which caused one of the largest mechanical issues in the old math building.

“We would bring sweaters in the summer and sometimes coats and blankets. In the winter we

tried to dress in layers so we could adjust as it got hotter,” Stenger said.

The second floor of the Communication Building will see renovations. It was formerly home to a dark room, but that technology has since been moved to the art complex. The upstairs space will now house studio space for podcast and television production.

“We are currently in talks to determine how to best utilize the space. One of the rooms will probably be a faculty office, one could be a meeting room, and some of the smaller rooms we plan to use as audio/visual recording and editing suites,” said Tasha Clanton, the Senior Administrative Assistant for the Department of Communication.

Hudson stated that they did not have to tear much of the upstairs out in order to make these renovations, and they will be fixing up what was already there.

Parking between Stephens Hall and the old math building will be inhabited by the new Computing and Mathematics Building, removing many parking spaces for faculty and staff. The demolition of the former Women’s Center will allow for the parking lot along North Wood Avenue to be expanded for faculty use. However, Hudson clarifies that the women’s center was not torn down for the purpose of creating more parking, but because the building was outdated and out of place in its location. Hudson says that they are working to create more housing on campus and the next step will be the demolition of LaGrange Hall. This space is intended to be used for new housing. He is unaware at this time how many people this new housing could accommodate. The demolition process for LaGrange does not pose any threat or safety hazard to people living on campus currently.

Lafayette Hall is still undergoing minor renovations, the next of which will be a new sidewalk.

“Lafayette needs some updates in the middle of this. It kind of delayed that process of those students moving in. We want to make sure Lafayette is taken care of too,” Hudson said.

With the expansion of on-campus housing comes an increased need for more student parking. The extension of the lot on North Wood Ave. will only accommodate faculty and staff. 

“We’re always looking for an opportunity to develop more parking where we can. We’re just limited on our locations. We’ve got properties in the master plan to the west of campus, and as we acquire more properties we could further develop parking lots towards the intramural field. Eventually we will see more parking to the west of campus.” 

Another project that is in the works is a potential expansion of the art complex to accommodate Music students, however, whether or not this project will be executed is tentative. If this project is completed, the addition would be located in what is now the courtyard between the Art Department and Norton Auditorium.

Hudson can assure that four-year freshmen who just began their education this fall, will see the opening of the new Computing and Mathematics Building and the demolition of LaGrange Hall. Many factors, including supply shortages and delays and funding, will determine whether or not current students will see the opening of new housing or be able to live in new housing by their senior years.