Students work in the University Center dining area on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. The UC is expected to have renovations in the near future. (Lisa Ulker/B&W)

Renovations planned for several Lehigh buildings

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Renovations to Williams Hall – the future home of Lehigh’s global studies department – are on track to be completed this spring, with planned improvements to the University Center, Chandler-Ullmann and Christmas-Saucon in talks to follow over the next few years.

“The heart of Lehigh is its people,” said Julia Parker, university architect and the director of campus planning. “It’s important that they have facilities that represent the strength of their programs.”

The updates to several of Lehigh’s most frequented facilities are part of the larger campus master plan, which was developed in 2012.

“We’ve been looking at this project as a series of initiatives for campus, this one being focused on student life,” Parker said.

The improvements to the University Center, Chandler-Ullmann and Christmas-Saucon are included in a package of projects that will be submitted to the board of trustees for approval during their two-day meeting on campus next week.

While plans for Chandler-Ullmann and Christmas-Saucon are still in the preliminary phases, the Campus Planning Committee has begun developing conceptual designs for the University Center, which was last updated in 1958.

The designs will be presented for initial review with Campus Planning and Operations on Feb. 26.

As part of their campus visit, the board will tour all three buildings to see the areas slated for renovation. If given the green light, the planning committee will work with the board to develop a timeline and plan of action for the intended improvements.

“The renovation of the University Center will create inviting and inclusive spaces to gather and provide an active, vibrant hub of activity,” said John Smeaton, the vice provost for student affairs, in an email. “I am confident it will become a common ground that strengthens our sense of community and connection to one another.”

Parker echoed Smeaton’s sentiments, adding that the current design of the University Center is disjointed. The intended new layout will offer updated facilities, better organization and additional meeting and public gathering spaces for all members of the campus community.

“Lehigh is seeking to strengthen diversity on campus and really create a place where people can come together, and with the University Center, the goal is to really reimagine it as something that’s purposed for that,” Parker said. “A place where anybody involved in any aspect of campus life can really feel that’s their second home.”

As part of the renovations, certain facilities and offices currently housed in Ulrich Sports Complex would be moved into the University Center. This move is intended to create a more cohesive hub for student life.

With the prospected improvements, Christmas-Saucon, and Chandler-Ullmann would receive interior renovations and technological updates to office spaces and classrooms to create a more productive learning environment for both students and faculty. The two buildings recently underwent an outdoor restoration.

The central purpose of these renovations is to strengthen student life opportunities on campus and provide teaching facilities that are reflective of Lehigh’s standard of excellence, according to Parker.

“Lehigh is a stellar academic institution,” Parker said. “We have extremely strong programs. We want to continue to support those. It’s critical to have facilities to do that.”

Aside from Williams Hall, which will begin moving faculty and staff in at the end of the spring semester, all future campus improvements are tentative pending the approval of the board of trustees. Parker says she is “cautiously optimistic” that renovations will move forward as planned.

“Its reached its time,” Parker said about the necessity of these campus updates. “We’re hoping that the board agrees with us when we present it next week.”

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