Assistant Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Matt Dull shares updates concerning construction projects on Appalachian's campus, including renovations to East and Justice halls and building progress for the parking deck at the site of former Winkler Hall.
*Note: In this conversation, references to "Schaefer Auditorium" are intended to indicate Appalachian's Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts.
Dave Blanks: Hey folks. This is Dave Blanks from University Communications. Thanks for joining us once again. This is our second one of our newest series of podcasts, “Campus Construction Updates.” And it's me right now and Matt Dull. Hello, Matt Dull.
Matt Dull: Hey Dave.
Dave Blanks: Hey, thanks for coming back.
Matt Dull: Absolutely.
Dave Blanks: So last time we were in your office, now we're at our studio here in UComm. Thanks for coming over to our world here.
Matt Dull: Absolutely. Beautiful space.
Dave Blanks: Well thanks. So in the first episode we talked about the three phases of west side construction that are going to start … ?
Matt Dull: February 2019.
Dave Blanks: And it'll end?
Matt Dull: Fall of 2022.
Dave Blanks: So Matt, before we get into the questions that I have prepared for us, can you give me an idea of what's new? Can you give me a campus construction update, Matt Dull?
Matt Dull: Sure, absolutely.
Dave Blanks: Awesome.
Matt Dull: I think that's the name of the podcast.
Dave Blanks: Why, it is!
Matt Dull: We've got some exciting things happening this week. Exciting for some people, maybe exciting for me, maybe not for others. We've got some movement on the parking deck. So as you know, we've been doing a lot of site grading. To a lot of people it just looks like we're just moving dirt from one side of the site to the other side of the site. But what's really happening on the site is we're setting up the elevations or the grading for each one of the levels of the parking deck. And so the parking deck kind of stair steps back up the hill. It was a really efficient way to build the parking deck. The first level of the parking deck's kind of a short level, and then the next level is a little bit further back up the hill, and the last two levels go all way to basically the entire site where Winkler Residence Hall was.
And It was a really efficient way to do that part of the site because we're in the mountains, there's a lot of rock. Anytime you start moving a lot of dirt, there's a possibility of hitting rock. And so there's a real intentional design for that parking deck. And so what's going on right now is they're leveling out each of those levels for that parking deck.
Dave Blanks: Like terraces.
Matt Dull: Like terraces.
Dave Blanks: Little terraces.
Matt Dull: Like making little terraces up the hill. And they're also putting in a retaining wall; it's got a soil nail wall around the site to basically hold back the soil. So we actually create a site we can build on. And starting this week and going in to the next couple of weeks, we are starting to do what's called aggregate piers— I know a super exciting term for everyone. Basically that's the first step to putting in the foundation for the parking deck. We're still moving the project ahead on schedule. As you know, weather in Boone can be a little bit tough in the winter for construction, so we are continuing to move forward and trying to get the site ready for putting in foundations, and then hopefully in the next couple of months be ready for moving in the pre-cast parking deck so that we can stay on schedule for an August delivery.
Dave Blanks: All right, excellent Matt. Any other updates on the construction?
Matt Dull: Yes, so last week the university put forward to the Board of Governors a request for what's called the stadium lot connector. And it's a pedestrian path between the current stadium lot down towards Schaefer Auditorium and to exit out to Rivers Street at that stoplight. I think we talked about it last week. It's a connector for people during the day — pedestrians to walk back and forth between the stadium lot area or the new housing project area to the rest of campus — but during game days it would allow us a second egress or a second exit from the stadium. So we would actually pull down some bollards that are protecting pedestrians during the normal day, that cars can actually exit the stadium to create a second exit out of that stadium parking deck down to Rivers Street without having to pull all that extra traffic back down Stadium Drive.
Dave Blanks: Excellent.
Matt Dull: Right now Stadium Drive's the only way to get out of the stadium lot, and so it'll be really nice on game days and other large events that we're having to be able to open up that second exit from that area down to a traffic light at Rivers Street.
Dave Blanks: So this does go in front of the Schaefer Center, the new connector. That would be of use not just during game day but also for numerous events that we already have at the Schaefer Center, right?
Matt Dull: Absolutely. I mean we're talking about a 477-space parking deck basically right behind the Schaefer Center. And this connector would actually connect a pedestrian path straight from the elevators and stairwells of that parking deck right down the hill to the Schaefer Center. And this would allow people to make their way from where they parked all the way to the Schaefer Center without having to cross traffic.
Dave Blanks: Fantastic.
Matt Dull: If you think about now, most people are parking right across the street at the Peacock Lot or on Rivers Street and walking up the hill towards the Schaefer Center, and that means you got a lot of people before events and after events crossing that street and lots of crossing guards. This is an opportunity to have people park in that parking deck and have a nice safe path for them from the parking deck, from their parking place to the Schaefer Auditorium.
Dave Blanks: Right, that's great. Well let's get into just a few of the questions that I had prepared in advance. Let's start out with this one. Why … we've gotten this question ... why did Appalachian State tear down Winkler instead of renovating Winkler?
Matt Dull: So we actually looked at renovating Winkler many years ago, and Winkler was a really interesting structure. It was built like townhouses inside of the building, so that each unit was actually two stories. You had a bottom story that would be kind of like a living space, kitchen and living room, and then a top story with a bedroom. Those were stacked on top of each other into that kind of 10-story tower. It was really difficult for us to change into a suite style, which is more the type of building we're trying to build now. So, it was almost $114,000 a bed and that was in 2012, when we were looking at that, and that's a lot of money to put into a building that was already 40-plus years old, and that's to do the total remodel, change everything to suite style. The elevators didn't even stop on every floor. The elevators went to every other floor because they were townhomes. So, there were ADA issues because you didn't have elevators that actually stopped on every floor.
Dave Blanks: Oh wow.
Matt Dull: It was a really comprehensive renovation, very expensive, and so the university decided to tear the building down because building new construction, totally up to date code, sometimes is actually cheaper than renovating, gutting a building, taking everything out, and basically just keeping the shell and starting over all on the inside.
Dave Blanks: Yeah, people think that just because the building is standing that it would be a cost savings, but you said $114,000 a bed?
Matt Dull: Yeah, that's correct.
Dave Blanks: In order to update Winkler to the standard set by ADA compliance … I mean —
Matt Dull: Yeah, set by ADA compliance, and then also rooms that are appropriate size for students — you know, what students would want to live in today.
Dave Blanks: Right.
Matt Dull: And also to have appropriate bathrooms, heating and air conditioning. Once you start adding in all of these spaces and all of these accommodations inside the building, you start losing a lot of spaces too. So what was a building for maybe, you know, 300 residents, for Winkler, specifically, ended up being a building that had about ... basically when we finished, if we redid the whole building, would have about 125 beds. And so it becomes really expensive per bed because you reduce that bed count in that building so significantly just because of all the code required changes you'd have to do in the building.
Dave Blanks: Got you.
Matt Dull: Really expensive.
Dave Blanks: So, what are some of the other buildings that we're looking at no longer having? That we're going to have to demolish?
Matt Dull: Yeah. So, Justice and East are two really good examples. Those buildings have not had renovations since they were constructed in the 1950s. So, same restrooms, same steam lines. They're not air conditioned buildings. So, they are in some pretty dire need for either repair or replacement just because of the age of the building, all of the utilities and infrastructure of the building just really needed to be completely updated. We actually did engineering studies on East Hall — gosh, it's probably been seven or eight years know — and even then the engineers were recommending to take down East Hall and not necessarily rebuild it. Again, same kind of thing: When you start taking up rooms to put in heating and air conditioning units, so all of the equipment needed for that, when you start putting in all the ventilation and duct work, it's like going into an old house. I live in an old house, and the thought of going in and actually putting in all the duct work in this house would be very, very expensive to go kind of refit and retrofit the house. Probably because, you know, all of the spaces are so much smaller. I think of it like crawl space in a house is really tiny in those old houses, so trying to put in all those big duct work, it's tough, and it's the same kind of thing in these bigger buildings that we have on campus is they take space. All of these equipment take space. And so you start taking a building like East that has 370 beds and you may have to narrow it down to 300 beds just to be able to heat and air condition the building, to put in elevators. Once you start putting in all these systems that code's going to require it becomes really expensive to renovate the buildings.
Dave Blanks: Right. OK, got you. Well Matt Dull, thank you so much for your time today. We will do it again. I appreciate you, sir. Thank you.
Matt Dull: Absolutely, thanks for the time.