BY ERIC STEIGLEDER
The Lee Hall renovation project completion date, originally slated to be in November 2008, has been pushed back until later this month.
At first, the contract allowed for 24 months of construction, according to Associate Vice President for Facilities Services John Wiltenmuth.
This was later revised to 19 months as per the advice of the design team. Construction has now taken close to 21 months.
However, according to Wiltenmuth, this is not an uncommon occurrence.
“Construction work is subject to delays from many causes,” Wiltenmuth said in an e-mail. “The recently finished visitor centers at the National Capitol and at the Capitol Building in Richmond were each a year or more later than originally planned. It happens at UMW, too.”
Wiltenmuth said that nothing was stalling Lee Hall’s completion beyond simple human error.
“The general contractor was not able to complete the work within the original contract period,” he said. “Work has not been postponed, rather it has taken longer to complete than planned.”
Wiltenmuth denied that budget constraints contributed to the situation. He also stated that the funds used to pay for Lee Hall’s renovation will in no way impede future renovation plans, such as those planned for Monroe Hall.
According to Wiltenmuth, with construction jobs of this magnitude there is no way to ensure an exact date of completion.
“We always try to improve processes,” Wiltenmuth said. “But there are too many variables in procurement and construction to have complete control.”
Both faculty and students have watched the Lee Hall renovations closely since construction began more than a year and a half ago, in May 2007.
Distinguished Professor of Religion David Cain became personally involved when he learned that construction would take place and that the ballroom would undergo extensive renovation.
“For years I have admired the distinctive space of Ann Carter Lee Hall,” Cain said. “When I learned of renovation plans, I styled myself the voice of the ballroom. I pleaded to the left and to the right on behalf of the space, but the final outcome remains to be seen.”
However, this extensive construction has also had a practical effect on the campus as well as an aesthetic one.
Ever since renovations began, various student services have been relocated across campus. The bookstore has moved to the Westmoreland Lawn, Health Services have moved to Mercer Hall, the University Police have moved to Brent House, and a host of other movements have taken place.
Seniors, who may or may not use Lee Hall as a space for commencement, potentially have the most to lose if the project is not completed on time.
And while Wiltenmuth was steadfast in his assertion that the Lee Hall renovations would in no way impede commencement activities, it appears that many seniors are troubled not by possible graduation woes, but by the loss of what they feel made Lee Hall great.
“While I understand the necessity for architectural renovations and bringing the building up to date,” senior Kaya Singleton said, “I wish there was a way to do so without changing the historical atmosphere.”
This sentiment was echoed by fellow senior Emely Amaya.
“When I was a freshman and sophomore we used Lee all the time,” she said. “And I loved the ballroom. Lee was actually one of the reasons I came here, it was so pretty with the flags and all.”
Amaya was also clear about her opinion regarding the segmentation of the Lee Hall ballroom into office spaces.
“The one thing I really don’t like about the reconstruction is that the ballroom won’t be there anymore,” she said. “Why should the administration get such a pretty and key building?”
Senior Lauren Riley had a similar opinion.
“The renovations seem to be taking such a long time that I am worried that it will not be completed in time for graduation,” she said.
“I always appreciated the huge ballroom. While I understand how the space could be better utilized by partitioning the space, I always appreciated the grandeur of the ballroom.”
Conversely, senior Sierra Stoney voiced a more practical concern.
“I think that Lee Hall is much more picturesque than ball circle, so I like that,” she said. “All I can say about the renovations overall is that I didn’t like how they interrupted some of my classes– the sound of sawing through stone is not conducive to understanding math in Trinkle.”