Nicholson Hall gets a high-tech revamp

The renovations will include a new roof, high-tech classrooms and heating and air conditioning.

Anna Weggel

At its creation, University officials put the College of Liberal Arts honors department in Johnston Hall on what was supposed to be a temporary basis.

Forty years later, CLA honors director Rick McCormick is overjoyed to finally have the chance to leave Johnston.

The honors department, along with several other groups, will move into a freshly rebuilt Nicholson Hall in November 2005. Demolition work is currently under way.

“We’re very happy to be moving into a new space – finally,” McCormick said.

Renovations for Nicholson Hall received capital bonding support in 2002, and the $24 million project officially began in early February, said Lori-Anne Williams, University Services communications director.

Williams said changes to the hall include a complete renovation of the building’s interior, a new roof, heating and air conditioning, and 12 new high-tech classrooms.

These changes were badly needed as Nicholson Hall slowly began to deteriorate through the years, Williams said.

“This building was getting more and more useless as time went on,” Williams said. “When you have a building you can’t use, it becomes really important to decide what to do with it.”

Besides new classrooms, Nicholson Hall will house seven seminar rooms, a student writing center, the honors program, the classical and near eastern studies department, and the cultural studies and comparative literature department once renovations are complete.

“The old classrooms were not well-equipped, not comfortable,” classroom management director Steve Fitzgerald said. “The new classrooms will be high-tech, high-quality, comfortable and (will be) greatly improved teaching and learning environments for students and faculty.”

Before the renovation, Nicholson housed 19 classrooms. Afterward, it will house 12. But these classrooms, which will represent 8 percent of all classroom seats on the East Bank, will be much better quality than the old ones, Fitzgerald said.

Because the project has been in the works since the mid-1990s, Nicholson Hall’s tenants were forced to make accommodations during construction.

“There were a lot of classrooms in the building,” said the provost’s office director Michaeleen Fox. “We had to take all the classroom activity out.”

To prepare for the project, officials steadily decreased the amount of classroom use in the years leading up to the renovations, Fox said.

“Everyone in the building knew they were going to be moving.”

George Sheets, classical and near eastern studies chairman, said his department has been in Folwell Hall since the 19th century but will be moving to Nicholson at the completion of the renovations.

“We love being (in Folwell Hall) but we’re looking forward to the Nicholson move as well,” Sheets said. “This will free up some space.”

Sheets said he thinks the move will be complicated but beneficial. His department will receive priority scheduling for parts of the building, which will allow its professors first choice on classrooms close to their department.

Sheets said there are other benefits to the move besides getting more space for his department.

“It does give you a chance to clean your files and get things in order once again.”