Sipping a drink and studying Wednesday afternoon in Augustana College’s on-campus coffee shop, 21-year-old Jacob Lindberg motioned toward a nearby outdoor construction zone.
“It’s definitely a little startling,” the senior said, referring to the college’s $42 million worth of renovation and construction projects happening simultaneously on campus this fall.
This represents the largest construction season of Augustana’s 100-year history, and includes building a $21 million Center for Student Life attached to the existing five-story Thomas Tredway Library, doing $13 million in renovations at the historic Old Main building and an $8 million overhaul of Knowlton Athletic Complex, formerly Ericson Field, officials said.
All work is scheduled for completion by fall 2013.
With a panorama of brightly colored autumn leaves as the backdrop, crews from two Quad-City companies — Estes Construction and Russell Construction — continued their work, giving site tours to a few college officials to update their progress.
The most expensive and elaborate of the projects is the creation of the first Center for Student Life, which essentially consolidates the library from five to three floors and adds new space to combine dining, student activities and the library into one new facility, said W. Kent Barnds, vice president of enrollment, communications and planning at the college.
“We’re not aware of anyone else who’s combining these things in one facility,” Barnds said, wearing a hard-hat as he walked through the area. “It’s going to be really neat for our students.”
Some of that work is finished, he said, showing off the now-renovated first floor already back in use again. Students quietly studied at several clusters of couches and chairs as Barnds pushed a button to move a set of new automated “space saver” bookshelves on that floor.
The area also includes a renovated room for the college’s special collections of rare or unique books and documents, he said.
Meanwhile, the library’s second and third floors have been spruced up with new paint and furniture, while demolition continues on the fourth and fifth floors of the building and construction of the new structure continues outside, said Dennis Hittle, director of facilities at Augustana.
A bridge-like walkway gives students and faculty a safe way to walk past the construction zone. When work is complete, an outdoor patio area will go up in that walkway space.
Meanwhile, interior renovation work continues at Old Main, which was built in 1883 and hasn’t undergone a major renovation since 1960, Estes Construction job site superintendent Mike Gammon said.
“We’re getting down to the bare bones,” Gammon said, explaining how workers are removing layers of walls and flooring to update the elevator, heating and cooling systems, technology and layout of every floor.
Exterior work to the building’s well-known dome has been completed, he said.
Taking a tour of the renovations for the first time, Barnds called the transformation “incredible.” He said faculty members will get the chance to go inside in a couple of weeks.
“We’re keeping the things that give the building its character, preserving what’s best about Old Main,” Barnds said, “but we’re making it a contemporary building.”
Meanwhile, updates to the turf and field at Knowlton Athletic Complex are complete, with groundbreaking scheduled for today to continue redesigning the stadium, Hittle said.
Back in the coffee shop, located inside the library building, Karlie Everett, a 19-year-old Augustana sophomore, said she is looking forward to the extra community space that will be created with the Center for Student Life. She said she expects that building to become the main gathering point on campus.
“It’ll let us communicate better with different departments on campus,” she said. “And it’ll be fun, because you’ll see a lot of people.”
Sitting at a tall table nearby, Lindberg said he was definitely surprised to see all the construction crews and fencing on campus when he returned to school this fall.
“I’m a little nervous about how it’s going to turn out, and a little upset that I’m not going to see it myself,” he said, adding that the work will be done after he graduates. “But I think it’ll be nice.”