September 5, 2011

Temporary Supports on McGraw Hall to Stay Indefinitely

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The temporary steel framing that is being installed on McGraw Hall will remain in place indefinitely due to a lack of funding from the University, according to Kyu-Jung Whang, vice president for facilities services. While the scaffolding will come down once the first phase of the renovation project is finished in November, it remains unclear when the University will raise enough money to continue the project, Whang said.The second phase, which currently lacks funding, would involve fully replacing the masonry and modernizing the interior. Whang estimates that this will cost between $6.5 million and $7.5 million over 1.5 years. In the current fiscal year, facilities management oversees a $4.7 million budget for endowed planned maintenance, according to Director of Facilities Jim Gibbs. In the early 2000s, the budget hovered at $11 million. Whang attributes the funding dip to University-wide financial constraints.“We need to pull everything apart in McGraw and put it back together to fix the building,” he said. “But we don’t know when that’ll happen because we don’t have the money.”Whang said the first phase  — which began in May and is projected to cost $3.5 million — will be completed on time. This phase includes temporarily steadying the exterior masonry with the steel supports, repairing the roof and replacing the gutter system — all of which are necessary in the face of aging and water damage, according to a University press release.The temporary stabilization of the building entails erecting temporary steel framing, bound by steel rods, that Whang described as “two bookends keeping the building from falling over.”When the second phase does begin, Cornell facilities services will close and renovate half of McGraw while the other half will remain open. After half the renovations are complete, the University will open the finished part of the building and begin renovations on the other half to avoid displacing as many faculty members and classes.University officials knew they lacked the funding for the second phase when construction began, Whang said. To keep McGraw open and safe, Cornell facilities services opted for the temporary steel supports.Faculty and staff working in McGraw Hall said they feel communication about these safety concerns has been satisfactory.“In History, our administrative manager has done a great job serving as a liaison between the project staff and the dean’s office, on the one hand, and the faculty on the other,” Prof. Barry Strauss ’74, history, stated via email. “Recently, the dean of the college met with me in McGraw to discuss the state of the building.”Some professors added, however, that the constant renovation is obtrusive to classes and professors.“Each day, I have to figure out how to get in and out of the building — I try to regard it as a kind of game,” Prof. Nerissa Russell, anthropology, said. “It can be a real pain, but it’s something we have to put up with.”McGraw is the last of the three original Second Empire-style stone buildings to be renovated. The other two — Morrill Hall and White Hall — underwent preservation projects in 1973 and 2003 respectively, according to Randy Lacey, associate director of Cornell’s department of Project Design and Construction.No classes were held in McGraw over the summer, and the Anthropology Collections Room in the McGraw Hall Museum was shut from April 15 to August 15.While classes resumed in McGraw this semester, construction across the University remains in limbo.“With less money to work with, smaller safety and weatherproofing projects come before larger ones that are difficult to fund,” Whang said. “Hopefully, things will get back on track soon.”Officials remained optimistic that delaying the renovation will prove to be the right course of action.“McGraw’s been chopped up and butchered over the years, so hopefully they can fix all the ceilings, get the windows working and restore it to its original glory,” Russell said.

Original Author: Dan Robbins