By Steph Breijo
Four academic departments are slated to move into the University’s luxury homes that have stood empty since January 2007 by August 1.
According to Vice President of Student Affairs Rosemary Barra, it was Barra who decided to move the Economics department into the home on 1004 College Ave. and the Speech and Debate, Creative Writing and Communications departments into the home on 1204 William St.
“The decision was made that the houses would serve an academic purpose,” said Barra, who said that she had been involved in the process from its beginnings. “The decision was based on looking at all academic buildings—looking at which needed relief in terms of space and which would be most logical.”
Barra said she chose the Speech and Debate, Creative Writing and Communications departments to move into the home based upon the need for space in Combs Hall.
“They have adjunct faculty that have offices that are closets, so it made the most sense for them to go,” she said.
According to Barra, the Economics department will move into the College Avenue home due to the upcoming construction on Monroe Hall. Also according to Barra, the Economics department will not occupy the entire house, as the University plans to leave empty rooms for future construction and renovation.
“Right now we don’t have any set plans for construction but it’s good to have free space just in case,” Barra said.
The two luxury homes, purchased by the University of Mary Washington Real Estate Foundation for a combined total of $3.2 million, will not include classrooms and will be used solely for office space.
John Wiltenmuth, the associate vice president of Facilities Services, said that minor demolition has already been completed on the homes, with more work scheduled for spring semester to ensure that the buildings now meet commercial/office codes as opposed to residential codes.
According to both Barra and Wiltenmuth, additional construction on the homes includes the installation of sprinkler systems, the partitioning of larger rooms into offices, wiring for Information Technologies and exterior ramps, bathrooms and parking for those with disabilities.
“More significant construction activity will begin after approval of the plans by the regulatory offices (code officials) later this semester, with the goal of completing the work by next fall semester,” Wiltenmuth said in an e-mail interview.
Claudia Emerson, creative writing professor and Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry, said that she had hoped for an ELS move into the University’s new buildings, providing more space in both the William Street building and Combs Hall.
“While I will miss the community that we have in Combs Hall, I am excited that ELS will have more room—for faculty and for our students.”
Sophomore creative writing student Serena Epstein said she expects the move to affect professors more than students.
“Obviously it’s slightly less convenient for professors in the same department to have offices in two different buildings,” Epstein said. “Other than the longer walk across the street, I can’t really see any other significant differences for students.”