Despite cold temperatures and frequent plan changes to accommodate hotel guests and students, construction of the Robert A. and Jan M. Beck Center, a 35,000 square foot addition to the School of Hotel Administration, is still on schedule. The Beck Center and parts of Statler Hall have been under construction since 2000 and will be ready for the Fall semester.
Most of the major exterior work was completed before winter break and the crews are now focusing on classrooms, sheetrock, and electrical work, said Marge Ferguson, associate dean for business administration in the School of Hotel Administration. Workers are also beginning to install a glass curtain that will be featured in the spacious atrium of the Beck Center, but that work is weather-dependent.
According to the hotel school’s website, the objective of the Beck Center Expansion Project is “to ensure that Cornell remains at the forefront of hospitality education.” The Beck Center “creates a more welcoming atmosphere” for those studying at the school, said Marge Ferguson, associate dean, business administration, School of Hotel Administration. When students come to Cornell, she continued, “they expect the buildings to be comparable [in quality] to the academics.”
Named for a former hotel school dean and his wife, the Beck Center increases the number of classrooms, lecture halls, interview rooms, and group study spaces available for students. Three new case classrooms, where students can participate in class discussion in a circular setting rather than a lecture hall, bring the total number to five. The two existing case rooms have prohibitively low ceilings and small teaching walls, features that have been improved upon in the new facility. There is also a new lecture hall that seats 140, as well as two regular classrooms, for academic use. The computer center was refurbished, as part of the Beck Center Expansion Project, during summer 2003.
The Beck Center will be in full use for the 2004-2005 academic year, but it has not yet been decided who will get to use the brand-new facility. All rooms except the computer center are filled using what is called the “schedule 25” system. Ferguson explained that after hotel school classes are scheduled, other classrooms are allocated to other departments in the University.
Although construction has been going on for nearly four years, developments have only become noticeable more recently. “It was painful to not see progress vertically” for such a long time, said Christine Carstensen, project manager. Much of the work before last year was underground, focusing on electrical and foundation structures.
Winter usually stalls construction, or at least slows it down, but the crews at the Beck Center scheduled themselves to work on the interior of the building during these months. Similar to the Duffield Hall construction site, plastic enclosures have been placed all around the Beck Center so work can continue despite the cold weather. The only people exposed to the elements are those installing the atrium’s glass curtain. By the end of the semester, the Beck Center “will have a more finished look on the outside,” Carstensen said. The glass in the atrium will be completely installed and all temporary plastic curtains will be exchanged for permanent fixtures.
Although there were significant disruptions during demolition and the installation of the foundation, most of the work now does not affect classroom use in the existing buildings. “We don’t really have many issues right now in terms of accommodations,” Ferguson said. Carstensen agreed, saying that the construction has been “impacting as few people as possible. The contractor has worked around specific needs such as testing and speakers.” Traffic continues to be an issue, however, as only one lane is open for cars to both enter and exit the Statler Hotel.
For students who do feel disturbed by the construction, Carstensen said, “they will soon reap the benefits. They’re going to be very happy with the state-of-the-art classrooms.” A dedication ceremony will be held in October, scheduled to coincide with the annual Board of Trustees meeting.
Archived article by Melissa Korn