The University of Connecticut’s most heavily used classroom building will soon get its second wind, thanks to a renovation project intended to ensure UConn has adequate, appropriate space for its growing faculty.
The Board of Trustees has approved a project to update the Jaime Homero Arjona building, constructed in 1959 with the neighboring Henry Ruthven Monteith building, as part of UConn’s response to an enrollment influx due to the GI bill after World War II and the Korean conflict.
Arjona, once considered for demolition and replacement, will instead be renovated in coming months to resolve structural, mechanical, and electrical problems attributable to its age and heavy use over the past five decades. The updated building will be used to provide office space that is increasingly needed as part of the University’s four-year plan to hire 275 additional tenure-track faculty members.
The work is expected to add at least another 10 years of life to the building, which got a new roof in 2009 and has had other repairs as needed over the decades. However, it still requires electrical updates, modernization for handicap accessibility and fire code standards, and weather-stripping and caulking around windows to increase its energy efficiency, as well as other updates.
“We’re going to go in and fix this building up, and make it usable for a fairly long period of time. We really need the swing space and would have a lot of different uses for it,” Richard Gray, UConn’s chief financial officer and executive vice president for administration, told the trustees at their meeting in December.
The building is named for Arjona, who joined UConn as an instructor in 1932 and led its Foreign Languages Department from 1946 to 1964. Under his leadership, the Department became one of the most significant in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS).
Many CLAS departments have been located in Arjona over the years, including political science, economics, linguistics, journalism, and literatures, cultures, and languages, all of which moved to Oak Hall when it opened this past fall. When renovated, Arjona is expected to provide office space for many new CLAS faculty members, along with faculty members in some other colleges.
Some employees in UConn’s Counseling and Mental Health Services also will move to Arjona from their current location in the Old Central Warehouse behind Student Health Services, which is slated to be demolished to make way for a new engineering complex.
The $15.4 million project is being funded with money from the third phase of the UConn 2000 capital improvements initiative, and will not require additional allocations. Construction is expected to start in early 2013 and be completed in time for the fall semester.
UConn originally anticipated it would demolish the Arjona building as part of the construction project that included building Oak and Laurel halls. The demolition plan was put aside, though, when it became evident that Arjona and Monteith were in such high demand that closing them would create a significant space crunch for classrooms and offices.
The Arjona renovations will include updating the electrical and climate control systems, installing new floor and ceiling coverings, replacing its lighting fixtures and outdated lavatories, making repairs as needed to masonry and brick work, and repainting the interior.
The Board of Trustees gave its approval earlier this year for renovations at Monteith, which was similarly outdated. Like the Arjona project, it is being done through existing UConn 2000 allocations without additional expenditures.