By Kieran McQuilkin
Lexington residents and college students are getting used to heavier traffic and a louder commute as both local universities tackle big-dollar building projects.
Construction at Virginia Military Institute is centered around North Main Street.
“Traffic patterns will get disrupted as we get deliveries in, but that’s part and parcel of any construction project,” said Col. Keith Jarvis, VMI’s construction director. “But overall, the impact has been pretty minimal. The actual construction activity is far enough away from academic buildings that there’s not a significant or direct impact around campus.”
VMI is in the middle of $120 million in new construction and improvements. Washington and Lee University has more than $50 million in projects of its own that are either underway or planned.
VMI Corps Physical Training Facility
In October 2014 contractors and VMI engineers picked up the 350-ton Knights of Pythias building and moved it 100 feet up Main Street from the bottom of Diamond Hill. The modern engineering feat closed Main Street for part of a day, using a remotely controlled series of wheeled trailers to transport the 4,000-square-foot gray brick building.
The relocation made way for a new building.
“The [Knights of Pythias] building sat literally in the footprint of the Corps Physical Training Facility,” Jarvis said in a news release. “The building had to be moved in order for the new structure to fit within that space.”
The $80 million training facility will include a full-size NCAA hydraulic track, high ropes course and climbing wall, and an underground parking deck.
Construction on a second project is also underway. It includes a renovation of Cormack Hall, north of Alumni Memorial Field, and a renovation of Cocke Hall across the street. Jarvis said renovations to Cormack Hall will be complete in late May or early June.
The indoor track in Cormack Hall was removed, and the building was renovated to house physical education and the school’s wrestling team.
Jarvis said Cormack Hall and Cocke Hall renovations will cost $20 million each. The three-building project is scheduled to be complete by the end of summer 2016.
W&L third-year housing, green space and global learning
On the west side of the Washington and Lee campus off Route 60 west, ground has been broken on an upper-division housing community. Grass has been stripped from former practice fields in preparation for the project.
The community will include 19 apartment-style buildings in two blocks called the Village Square and the Village Commons. They will have walkways and green space in their centers, and several will overlook Washington and Lee athletic fields.
“The presence of 75 percent of the undergraduate student body on campus after classes and during the evening should create much greater participation in the many co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and cultural opportunities missed by students who commute to off-campus housing and don’t return at night,” said university spokesman Brian Eckert in an email.
Though hardly visible from the street, the project will include heavy equipment and constant work until its projected completion in the summer of 2016. Eckert said the planned budget for upper-division housing is about $37 million but is subject to slight change pending contract negotiations.
Washington and Lee also plans to change the west end of Washington Street to create more green space adjacent to existing residence halls. The project will be called Washington Street Park and is scheduled to begin this spring. It will involve demolishing two houses and one dormitory across from the Warner Athletic Center, building several walkways, and installing grass and plants to beautify that stretch of road.
Across campus, renovations to DuPont Hall were hindered by snowy weather in recent months, Eckert said. The building will become a new Center for Global Learning.
University officials planned to finish the renovation by January 2016, Eckert said, but now they expect classrooms to open in January and the rest of the interior work to be finished in the late winter and spring of 2016. The Center for Global Learning construction will cost about $13.5 million.