University of Richmond has evacuated North Court for the fall semester giving the university’s design and construction team more time to investigate the building and begin the process of renovation.
The design and construction team has hired an architect, who has completed the drawings for North Court, said Chuck Rogers, director of design and construction. The contractor has also priced the drawings, and the cost of the building is almost complete with a few additions on its way, he said.
The board will determine in October if the project is a go or if it wants to cut something out of it, Rogers said. If the board approves it, then the team will start right away in October, he said.
The plan for renovation includes converting the traditional dorm-style housing into suites, as well as upgrading the 100-year-old building, Rogers said. In addition, the building systems, including heating and air conditioning, and the envelope, such as the roof, windows and waterproofing, need to be repaired or replaced, he said.
“We plan to keep the historical outside shell, but are going in and clearing out all the interior walls,” Rogers said. “So anything that is in there is getting cleaned up and taken away.”
Students, who have lived in North Court in the past, have shown their excitement and contentment for the building’s renovation.
“I am happy with the renovations because North Court needed it,” said senior Charlett Stevenson, who lived in North Court her sophomore year. “It was moldy and needed some fixing. I hope after renovations there are bigger rooms, more private and bigger bathrooms and an easier laundry access for everyone.”
Rogers said that before renovations can start, his team has to keep things safe when they go inside the building to start modifications. The buildings are solid and stand strong, but there are still issues with building materials that have failed over the years, he said.
These buildings weren’t built for air conditioning or heating, and the distance between one floor and the next is shorter because it didn’t need any pipes, ducts or any of that stuff, which causes a lot of design gymnastics, Rogers said.
North Court was not only in desperate condition for renovation because of its history, but it was also hard to navigate your way inside, said Carolyn Bigler, assistant director for student housing. By changing the dorms into suites and new structures, it will be an improvement, she said.
“Although I loved my experience in North Court, I do wish my room was easier to reach,” said junior Kit Whiteman, who lived on the top floor of North Court, which is commonly known as the "princess tower" to students. “On move in day, it took me 35 minutes just to find the room before we even began unpacking because it was listed as a third floor room, but the staircase to it was off the second floor.
Rogers said his team plans to do a little exterior work by making an easier access to the top floor of North Court, so it won’t be as tight and constricted.
With suite-style living, North Court will hold 158 beds, which is less occupancy than in the past; however, suitemates would share a bathroom, rather than going down the hall, Rogers said.
There will be a handful of suites, ranging from singles to double/singles or double/doubles, he said. There will also be an elevator in North Court that will reach most of the suites, along with a new main entrance, lobby, study rooms, lounges and washer and driers throughout the building, he said.
Bigler said, with North Court under renovation, students are living in various buildings across campus, including the newly renovated Jeter Hall and Thomas Hall, along with Gray Court and Robins Hall.
“When Gray Court went co-ed that was when more students wanted to live on the Westhampton side because it became the center of the social scene,” Bigler said. “Prior to that, you had people wanting to live on the other side of the lake because it was closer to classes.”
The possibility for North Court to either stay all female or be co-ed is still in discussion, so it will be interesting to see where students end up living, Bigler said.
North Court will be closed from now until December 2016, and will re-open for the spring 2017 semester.
Contact reporter Catherine McTiernan at email@example.com.