At Loyola New Orleans, It’s All About Construction

1 March 2013

Loyola University’s campus in New Orleans is bustling with construction. One major renovation is occurring at Cabra Hall, where Woodward is acting as the general contractor. The renovation of Cabra Hall will result in a new facade, modernized building systems and more spacious dorm rooms. Work is expected to complete during the summer of 2013.

At Loyola New Orleans, it's all about construction

The Times-Picayune

28 February 2013

By John Pope, NOLA.com | The Times Picayune

When Jamia Love first visited Loyola University as a high school junior two years ago, she said this was her dominant impression: “Construction.” Now, Love is back as a freshman, and “there’s still construction going on.”

And how. The university is in the middle of a massive building program that is expected to cost about $163 million, but don’t look for lots of new structures.

There’s no room for them at Loyola’s 21.6-acre main campus or the university’s satellite campus at Broadway and St. Charles Avenue, which has only 5.4 acres. Moreover, neither can expand into nearby neighborhoods or, in the case of the main campus, encroach on its next-door neighbor, Tulane University.

Consequently, the money, which came from two bond issues and private donations, is being spent on renovating and upgrading existing buildings. They include dormitories, office buildings, the former library that will house the Tom Benson Jesuit Center, and Monroe Hall, where about 40 percent of all classes are held.

“I think it’s pretty cool that the university is trying to expand what it can do,” said Love, a music-industry major.

That attitude seemed to be prevalent among students, even when they were discussing the work on Monroe Hall, a 174,820-square-foot colossus that will gain two stories and, on top, housing for mechanical, electrical, heating and air-conditioning equipment. Its foundation was built to accommodate the extra floors, Loyola President Kevin Wildes said.

Scaffolds have sprouted alongside the building, and a wooden barrier, covered with all sorts of impromptu art, keeps pedestrians away from the job site. Monroe Hall is still in use, but access can be confusing, with students using a series of covered walkways to get inside.

“It’s really like an obstacle course,” freshman Jared Townsend said.

Because of all the classrooms and faculty offices in Monroe Hall, shutting it down wasn’t feasible for the three years the project is expected to take, said Bret Jacobs, Loyola’s chief information officer.

So with the cooperation of the faculty members who have offices in the building, Jacobs devised a schedule for moving them to modular buildings when work was being done in their part of the building, then moving them back in as work progressed. Holabird & Root of Chicago and Holly & Smith of New Orleans are the architects on the project.

“So far, we’re on schedule,” Jacobs said. “The first occupancy – on the fifth floor – will be ready when the students come back in the fall.”

While this may be efficient, it can be difficult – and noisy.

“It’s a pain to live with,” Wildes said, “but I think it will point us in the right direction for the future.”

Although Monroe Hall was too big to shut down, there was no such problem with Buddig Hall, a dormitory that was closed last summer for a $16 million renovation in which it received new windows and an energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning system.

Buddig houses 430 freshmen and sophomores.

Cabra Hall, a dorm there that runs parallel to Broadway, also is getting a $13 million facelift that will be ready for the fall semester, said Craig Beebe, Loyola’s director of residential life.

To make the rooms larger, Cabra’s capacity is being “de-densified,” Beebe said, from a capacity of 213 upper-division students to 163.

Also, he said, Cabra Hall will receive a new fa├žade that will modernize the building and hide the elevator.

Architects for both projects are Kell Munoz + Mathes Brierre.

The only structure with an uncertain future is the 63-year-old brick building that will become the Tom Benson Jesuit Center, which was launched with $8 million from the owner of the Saints and Hornets.

The building, which used to be the library, has been closed since 1999. Holly & Smith will design the renovation, which is expected to cost $15.4 million.

At this point, Wildes said, the university hasn’t decided whether the building should be renovated – a project that would require such tasks as asbestos and lead abatement – or torn down and replaced.

Wildes said he expects a plan this spring. He will make a recommendation and let the university’s trustees decide what to do.

In addition, the university recently completed these projects:

  • A two-story, $4.2 million addition to the West Parking Garage, which added 236 parking spots.
  • A $14.5 million renovation of Thomas Hall, a former residence and chapel for Jesuits, to house administrative offices and a visitor center.
  • A $7.5 million renovation of the Dominican Conference Center, which now houses these law-school programs: the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice; the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center; the Office of Law Skills and Experiential Learning; and the Career Development and Law Practice Center.

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