Relatively dry summer and fall weather has allowed construction on Lee University’s Communication Arts building to remain on track to be completed by fall 2014.
Director of Special Projects Cole Strong said he feels good about what has been completed.
“We feel like we are making good progress,” Strong said. “We are eager to get it roofed in, so we can have a dry area to work for much of the winter and spring.”
The Communication Arts building has the most extensive footing system of all Lee’s constructions to date. This is an integral part of the building’s foundation. It involves digging into the ground, placing rebar and pouring concrete over the top. The heavier the building, the more elaborate the system.
Strong explained rooms in the building, like the Black Box Theater, soundstage and screening room, will place more weight on the foundation. All three rooms will be two stories high. The Black Box Theater will also have a tension grid hanging from the ceiling.
“It will cover most of the floor, so you can get up top and put the lights in so they can shine down through the system,” Strong said. “It is different from a catwalk where you have one rung of lights focused on one area. ... We really think it will be a good asset and teaching area for our students.”
Communication Arts faculty and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences created a classroom utilization plan before the building’s design plan began. The group was instructed to dream big. The final product will include the above-mentioned rooms in addition to a dressing room suite; theater design lab; convergent newsroom; voice-over recording room; student intern production room; archival room; active learning meeting room; audio/video computer lab; student editing suites; and two acting rehearsal labs.
The footer system was followed by the first floor slab. Steel beams and crossbars have since been placed. Tri-Con Construction received the first shipment of hollow-core planks last week. The slabs measured anywhere from 10 to 20 feet long, and 10 feet wide.
According to Strong, the exterior wall will soon take shape as the metal is placed.
“We hope to keep moving forward. We hope the rain will hold off a little longer so we can get the second floor in, then start working on the roof,” Strong said. “We always love to try and get the roof in before the Cleveland January rainy season gets here.”
Work will continue predominately on the interior of the building once the roof is placed. Additional exterior work will be seen on the brick veneer and the white precast pieces.
Spring will signal a transition from heavy construction to electrical work, painting and landscaping.
According to Strong, the Communications Arts building’s 40,000 square feet will be slightly larger than the School of Religion’s 36,000. It will be the third-largest building on campus after the 73,000-square-foot Science and Math Complex and the 54,000-square-foot Humanities building.
He said it is difficult to compare the construction speed of the Communication Arts building to recent projects.
“Like the School of Religion, for instance, is mainly just a classroom building. As far as the technology and heavy load electricity, there was not a lot of that in the building,” Strong said. “The science labs on the other hand, you have those specialized items you have to focus on.”
He explained the electrical load in the Communication Arts building is very high due to the specialized rooms.
The final product is expected to be an aesthetically pleasing addition to downtown Cleveland. It will stand on the corners of Central Avenue and North Ocoee Street and Central Avenue and Church Street.
“We have what we call a ‘360 building,’ where you have a good view from any side,” Strong said. “It was important we didn’t have a back side to the building.”
Students, faculty and downtown shop owners alike have expressed excitement over the new building.
President Paul Conn described the building process from the idea conception to the ribbon cutting as one of the most gratifying aspects of being a college president.
“I wouldn’t say it is the most gratifying, probably more gratifying is seeing students develop,” Conn said. “Seeing a student come in as a freshmen and then seeing her 10 years later having a mature adult life that has made been richer by the collegiate experience [is more gratifying].”
Added Conn, “The bricks and mortar, the seeing the dream and the idea become a reality is also very satisfying. And I enjoy that part very much.”