CLA revamps offices

$1.4 million upgrade to Johnston Hall’s second floor will begin in late March.

Bryce Haugen

When hockey standout David Metzen first arrived at the University, he registered for classes at Johnston Hall.

That was 46 years ago.

And according to Metzen, now a member of the University Board of Regents, the 56-year-old building looks pretty much the same these days, plus “a lot more wear and tear.”

At their monthly meeting Friday, the regents unanimously approved a $1.4 million upgrade to Johnston Hall’s second floor, home to several College of Liberal Arts administrative divisions. Construction, scheduled to begin in late March and wrap up by mid-August, is limited to CLA sections of the multiuse building.

The project is “long overdue,” said Metzen, chairman of the regents committee that reviewed the proposal. “Should have been done a long time ago – it’s a great project.”

The renovations, funded with CLA dollars, will ease overcrowding and increase collaboration within departments, said Sue Banovetz, director of media and public relations in the CLA Office of External Relations.

The space will include a new conference room and kitchen, a second bathroom for the floor’s approximately 50 employees, and – perhaps most importantly – more work space.

“This is going to help us better support the academic and administrative needs of our departments,” Banovetz said.

But the renovations will go beyond working to make the college’s bureaucracy more effective. To improve safety, workers will install sprinklers throughout the second floor. They’ll also exchange the floor’s 37 noisy, stand-alone air conditioners with energy-efficient units connected to an existing chilled water loop in Northrop Garage.

Today marks the first round in a six-month game of office space shuffle.

On the west side of the second floor, media and public relations staff-members packed up files Tuesday afternoon, preparing for today’s move downstairs to the former home of the CLA Honors office.

When the Honors office moved to Nicholson Hall last year, the college remodeled the vacant space. That move was the “catalyst” for the upcoming project, since the cramped Office of External Relations finally had a place to expand, said Scott Elton, assistant to the CLA associate dean for space planning.

In about two weeks, the CLA fiscal administration department will temporarily move into the space being vacated today so remodeling can begin on the east side of the building. During the final phase of construction, this “swing space” will be transformed into the permanent home for the Office of External Relations development department, temporarily housed in the University Episcopal Center.

Because the college’s lease at the center expires Aug. 31, it is imperative that the plan proceed on schedule, despite the inevitable inconveniences of working amid construction, Elton said.

Karen Dewanz, assistant director for fiscal administration, will have to help prepare next year’s CLA budget while bouncing from office to office.

“It’s hard to go through this process when you’ve got work to do,” she said.

But Dewanz said the project will allow for a refreshing departmental reorganization.