CULLOWHEE -- The $98.4 million coming Western Carolina University's way with the recent passage of the $3.1 billion state higher education bond package will create a construction boom unprecedented in the university's 111-year history, and a chance to "upset" nearly everyone on campus.
Seventeen bond-funded projects -- ranging from construction of the fine and performing arts center and a 300-bed residence hall to upgrades to science labs, roads, electrical lines and heating and air conditioning systems -- are on tap for Western over the next eight years.
The construction, repair and renovation funded by the bonds are not the only building projects looming on the horizon for WCU, however. Also in the works are several major projects not connected to the bond issue, including completion of renovations at the former Camp Laboratory School, the second phase of expansion of the A.K. Hinds University Center, construction of a federally funded workforce development center, and enhancements to WCU's football stadium and soccer and track facilities.
"By the end of the next academic year, everyone on campus will have had the opportunity to be upset at least once," Western Chancellor John W. Bardo said. "People won't be able to park where they've always parked or walk where they've always walked, because fences and dump trucks and construction workers will be there."
Bardo also warned that students, faculty, staff and visitors must realize "there will be times in the coming years when the campus doesn't look very pretty."
"A lot of construction will be taking place on campus very soon and we're not used to that here, because we haven't had much construction in recent years. We can expect fencing, heavy equipment, and dirt and mud, and we can expect problems," he said. "But I want to thank the voters of the state and those who worked on behalf of the bonds, because as problems go, they will ultimately prove good ones to have."
Work on three major projects is expected to begin as early as March or April:
-- The fine and performing arts center, a 121,000-square-foot facility providing classrooms, studios, galleries and support space for students majoring in the arts and humanities, and a 1,000-seat hall for music and theatrical performance. Design and site preparation work was funded by previous appropriations by the N.C. General Assembly, with construction funded through the recently approved bond issue. The $28 million center could be complete by spring 2003.
-- The regional workforce development center, a 28,000-square-foot high-technology training facility to be built with $8 million in federal funds obtained over the past few years with the support of U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor. The new building will include digital video, digital sound recording and media production programs, applied engineering facilities and laboratories for technology-based manufacturing, three-dimensional epoxy laser modeling, information network design facilities, and a center for professional selling.
-- The second phase of the A.K. Hinds University Center expansion. Plans call for the construction of approximately 31,000 additional square feet to add increased meeting and office space for student organizations, a multicultural center and an expanded food court, as well as a retail shopping area and a movie theater. Cost of the project, expected to be complete by spring 2002, is $6.5 million, funded through student fees.
The second phase of a $5.8 million renovation of the former Camp Lab building, now home to the University Outreach Center, is currently under way and should be complete by November 2001. Home to WCU's Division of Continuing Education and Summer School, the center will house several other outreach programs, including the Mountain Resource Center, and a new daycare facility when the $3.8 million project is complete.
In addition to construction on the fine and performing arts center, another project funded by the bond package is high on Western's priority list. Preliminary design work for a new $15 million residence hall is already under way, with additional design and site preparation for the 300-bed facility to continue until construction begins in early 2002. Five additional new residence halls are planned to accommodate a projected enrollment growth of 50 percent, or about 3,000 students, at WCU over the next eight to 10 years.
The tentative work schedule for other projects approved as part of the Nov. 7 bond package:
-- Stillwell Science Building, comprehensive renovation and modernization, $15 million; preliminary
design work to begin 2002, and construction and renovation to begin 2004.
-- McKee Classroom Building, comprehensive renovation and modernization, $5.2 million; preliminary design work to begin 2001, and construction and renovation to begin 2003.
-- Bird Building, renovation and conversion to student health center, $1.8 million; preliminary design work to begin 2001, and construction and renovation to begin 2002.
-- Graham Building, conversion of old student health center to residential and academic space, $1.8 million; preliminary design work to begin 2002, and construction and renovation to begin 2003.
-- Breese Gymnasium, conversion to academic use, $1.1 million; preliminary design work to begin 2002, and construction and renovation to begin 2005.
-- Chiller replacement and air-condition system retrofit, $1.4 million; work to begin 2001 and continue through 2006.
-- Infrastructure improvements (including steam and electrical) and relocation of roadways, $10.6 million; work to begin in 2003 and continue until 2007.
-- Killian Clinic Annex, comprehensive renovation, $3.1 million; preliminary design work to begin in 2001, and construction and renovation to begin in 2002.
-- Killian Education and Allied Professions Building, partial renovation, $1.5 million, preliminary design work to begin in 2003, with renovation to begin in 2005.
-- Forsyth Business Building, comprehensive renovation, $7 million, preliminary design work to begin in 2002, with renovation to begin in 2004.
-- Technology infrastructure expansion, $5 million, to begin in 2001 and continue through 2005.