The beginning of a new academic year has brought students and faculty alike a multitude of renovations from both UR Facilities and Residential Life costing close to $4.3 million.
UR Facilities is the unseen backbone of UR. They maintain the school infrastructure including common areas such as sidewalks, buildings and dorm furnishings, while also adding additions to the school, spending around $2.3 million yearly.
“This year we spent a lot of our capital dollars on repairs to Hutchison Plaza. That has been leaking like a sieve for years. We pulled all the concrete off and put a new membrane under there. It’s a whole new look,” Director of UR Facilities Jeff Foster said.
Maintenance is done throughout the year, but the major construction jobs begin as soon as UR begins summer break.
“When you guys leave for the summer, we start our construction,” Foster said.
Another large construction project was to revamp the expansion joints of Fauver stadium. Expansion joints, similar to the equidistant lines on sidewalk, allow for the metal to expand during hot days without destroying the structure.
The new expansion joints are based on the Cleveland Browns’ stadium due to the similar weather patterns of Cleveland and Rochester. The accordion-rubber expansion joints cost roughly $300,000.
Last year’s half-finished sidewalk near Towers on Intercampus Drive are now fully built.
“Last year, students had to walk in the street [of Intercampus Drive] during the winter because of the snow. This year, with the sidewalks built, they no longer have to,” Foster said.
Also, a crosswalk has been built to cross Intercampus Drive from Towers to Hill Court Parking Lot. All new crosswalks throughout the River Campus are now stamped with concrete, like the ones on Wilson Boulevard.
Facilities has also put in all new kitchens, cabinets, and stainless steel splashguards for the sinks in the Graduate Living Center.
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“I think the folks who left last spring and came back this fall will be quite impressed,” Foster said.
Students agree with Foster’s assessment.
“The new kitchens are great. My roommate and I use it everyday. It’s a bit cramped in there but that’s to be expected,” sophomore Stephen Brown said.
Foster said facilities is always on the lookout for future projects. He also expressed his openness to suggestions and comments on possible projects from the students.
“It’s important for us to listen to that. You guys may only be here for four years, but it’s your home for four years and we want to make it as comfortable and relaxing as we can,” Foster said. “Class can be tough and you need someone to watch out for you.”
A project currently in the works resulted from the unfortunate fire in the Susan B. Anthony Residential Halls, which gutted an entire room of its furnishings. Facilities has been looking at getting the same movable dorm furniture that exists on the Quad inside Sue. B., Foster said.
The “fire-gutted room” allows UR Facilities to test out Quad furniture and see how it fits.
Residential Life is in charge of housing, ResTV, UR’s TV service, and ResNet, the high speed internet and intranet connection. This year, Residential Life has spent nearly $2 million on repairing roofs, carpeting, painting and upgrading ResNet equipment.
Much of what Residential Life maintains, similar to UR Facilities, is behind the scenes – things that go unnoticed until they are not working, such as the new quarter million dollar sewage pumps.
However, one large aspect of Residential Life renovations is the revamping of telecommunications lines in Graduate Living Center. Originally, Rochester Institute of Technology had installed many of the telecommunications systems for GLC, according to Director of Residential Life Logan Hazen. One TV, telephone, and one ResNet outlet was located in the kitchen for each three-person apartment. Students had to buy extensions and splitters in order to receive their own line. The new $1 million system removed the old connections and added three of each – TV, telephone and ResNet – into each apartment.
Also, schoolwide ResNet networks have been upgraded from 10 megabits per second to 100 megabits per second and eventually will become one gigabit per second, according to Hazen.
The new internal speeds will allow files to be uploaded and downloaded from computers in the network 10 times faster.
Hoeing’s ResNet equipment has also been revamped, improving all telecommunications systems. Eastman is still running on an old system, but will eventually be revamped as well. Currently, 95 percent of ResNet has been brought up to the new 100 megabits per second speed.
“We’re leaders in the national organization [ResNet symposium],” Hazen said of the new speeds. “We are going from museum quality to high tech equipment.”
The Ruth Merrill Center, the hub of all Student Activities, removed much of the antiquated file cabinets and replaced them with new sofas and tables. This allows the Center to be used as a meeting area for students. The Center had not been renovated since the building opened 27 years ago.
Haven’s Lounge has also been remodeled.
“Haven’s Lounge gift money hadn’t been well utilized [in the past]. We’re getting a lot of traffic in the building,” Director of Wilson Commons Anne Marie Alegier said. “The acoustics weren’t good [previously]. We built a wall there [for storage purposes]. We wanted to make it easy and convenient for people.”
The old Graduate Student’s Office, room 407, has also been refitted with tables and chairs. It was changed because the space was not being utilized.
Lastly, the doors of Wilson Commons were completely replaced by UR Facilities.
“I love the new doors because they stay open by themselves and they line up so you don’t have to change path,” senior Brett Abercrombie said.
Staff reaction was similar.
“They were just old and needed to be replaced. It gives a really nice facelift to the building. The whole building has gotten a new life,” said Director of Student Activities Anne-Marie Algier said.
Algier regards all the renovations as positive reinforcements to the already busy Wilson Commons.
“We’ve been very happy [about the renovations]. We really want life and activity in the building,” Algier said.
Additional reporting by Chadwick Schnee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.