April 13, 2004

Let the Renovation Begin! Construction Starts on Bailey

Print More

Construction is expected to begin on Bailey Hall at the end of this week. The massive renovation is scheduled to be completed on August 24, 2006 and will be funded by Cornell University and the New York State University Construction Fund.

“The cost is estimated at a little over $12.5 million,” said project manager Jim Kazda.

The renovation includes enhancing handicapped accessibility, reducing the number of seats from 1,950 to 1,350 and making the seats wider, with more space between rows and aisles.

Part of the plan includes an addition to the north side of the building. This addition will house new mechanical systems such as heating, ventilation and cooling while keeping these systems acoustically isolated from the main hall. The addition will also provide more stage-level storage for storing risers, music or stands, and move the walkway between Bailey Hall and Savage Hall closer to Savage Hall. There will be an acoustical treatment, or special doors that can be opened or closed, on the entire back wall of Bailey Hall. When closed, wooden panels will reflect sound, improving concerts acoustics. For lectures, the panels will open to reveal a softer material capable of absorbing sounds and improving clarity.

Prof. James B. Maas, psychology, who has spent has spent more than 25 years teaching in Bailey Hall, said that he has been on planning committees for the renovation for about 12 years. Maas said that renovation should bring the building up to today’s standards for good sound, lighting and projection. These new standards will hopefully improve the quality of recorded lectures which are sent to the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.

The biggest conflict, according to Maas, was the reduction in the number of seats — the hall was often filled to capacity. Hundreds of seats needed to be removed to retain Bailey Hall’s historic exterior while also providing for more spacious seating.

Maas has had to cut Psych 101 enrollment by more than half because the class, traditionally held in Bailey, is currently held in the Statler Auditorium.

Maas also said that while the old hall might not have been completely safe in terms of fire regulations, there were “so many doors to exit Bailey, we can empty that place in less than a minute. If the class finished at 11:00, at 11:01 the place was empty.”

“So many people have a love-hate relationship with the building,” said Richard Riley, Cornell Concert Series director. “The seats are famously uncomfortable and there is no Bailey Hall thermostat,” Riley added.

Heating is either on or off, according to Riley, and radiators clank. In the past, the water cooling plant had to be called a half-hour before concerts began in order to avoid excessive radiator noise during heating.

“It’s really cool to have a class in there and then see a show,” said David Katz-Doft ’05, executive director of the Cornell Concert Commission. He said that the construction takes away a smaller venue which makes a difference when trying to work out a budget for smaller shows. The cost of production for Bailey Hall is $15,000 while the cost for Barton Hall is $40,000.

“It was quaint, but ultimately in 2004, we hope for more and will get more,” Riley said. He said that in the meantime, alternate concert spaces are Barnes Hall, the State Theater, Statler Auditorium and Sage Chapel. Riley also hopes to work with Ithaca College to use spaces during their breaks.

There will be an additional lobby on the basement level of Bailey Hall, replacing offices for Cooperative Extension and CFCU Community Credit Union. Robert Witty, CEO and president of CFCU said that there is a lot of nostalgia for the basement level of Bailey Hall but there are no plans to re-open a branch there after renovation is complete. CFCU opened there in 1953 and served as CFCU’s only office location for 25 years until the main office was transferred to East Hill Plaza in 1979. A branch remained there until its move to the campus store a few years ago.

During work on the building, the contractor Daniel J. Lynch, Inc. will put up a construction fence going through the grass strip across from the entrance, eliminating the row of parking spaces there.

There are also many utilities currently located between Bailey Hall and Savage Hall, including computer and telephone lines and other wires and pipes.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun Staff Writer