The work of more than 20 construction projects across the university may catch students’ attention.
While a majority of the projects started by the Physical Plant and Service Operations this summer are complete, some finishing touches still linger. Although some students have called the ongoing construction and changes an inconvenience, Physical Plant director Phil Gatton said most projects should be completed in the first few weeks of the semester.
While the construction may create minor obstacles around campus, Chancellor Rita Cheng said she has heard compliments on the projects rather than complaints.
“People have also commented that the campus hasn’t looked this good for a long time,” she said. “I think we are starting to make a difference in the external and internal improvements we are making.”
Some students visited campus for the first time last week before officially moving to Carbondale, and Cheng said she thought many families responded positively to the ongoing changes.
“The parents and students who were here for move-in and for Saluki Startup really complimented us on the construction projects that were going on and the quality of the work that had been done,” she said.
Richard Heins, a freshman from Campbell Hill studying physical therapy, said he thinks the renovations help improve the campus’ look. He said he knew about construction happening on campus before he arrived, but he was unaware of how much was being done.
He said even if he did not know about the construction, he would still have chosen to attend SIU because the renovations are signs of the campus’ modernization.
The Physical Plant and Service Operations is in charge of cleaning, maintenance and repairs as well as campus facility operation and maintenance. The projects the Physical Plant completed this summer totaled around $120 million, Gatton said. Those projects included renovations to Faner Hall, which has yet to be completed.
Gatton said the addition of lighting and wider walkways around Faner Hall is intended to make more space for student interaction. He said lighting construction is ongoing, and cement work in front of the building is not complete despite plans for a finished project before fall. Another week of concrete work is needed before the pathway is complete, he said.
“I hope the students who have been here before see all the improvements, and hopefully all the new students who come here appreciate the way the campus looks,” Gatton said. “I think we’re really heading in the right direction on facility improvements.”
Renovations were also made to remove asbestos and replace seating, flooring, lights and the ceiling in Lindegren Hall’s French Auditorium.
Hallway and office upgrades in Faner Hall and the Agriculture Building are also complete. This is the first significant renovation the Agriculture Building has received since it was built in 1955.
“It looked like you were stepping back in time,” Gatton said. “(The building) had poor lighting (and) just had a poor look.”
Faner Hall also underwent construction to fix its roof and increase precautions to prevent mold from occupying the building.
Although the construction around Faner is near complete, the summer’s construction work raised concerns because of gas line leaks.
“I don’t know if it was that huge of an issue. It was a small gas line; it caused some problems over the summer,” Gatton said. “It was unfortunate, but given the magnitude and scope of the project, it probably wasn’t unexpected.”
Gatton said several buildings were evacuated during the gas leak, but only as an added precaution. He said it is not uncommon to run into things such as gas and water lines during construction.
While most construction around campus is complete, some projects such as the new Student Services Center are still under construction.
“We’re starting to actually see the layout of the building,” Gatton said. “It’s approximately a $30 million project that should be finished by the end of next summer.”
Gatton said the construction is going better than he thought because there have been no rain delays.
Cheng said future improvements will be made to academic buildings and the library along with remodeling Pulliam and Quigley Halls.
With the ongoing construction running into fall semester, some students and faculty have concerns.
Grace Darmour-Paul, a professor in foreign languages, said the construction has been a hassle for her to maneuver around campus. She said the campus seems to change everyday, and the routes she takes one day are sometimes blocked off the next. But Darmour-Paul said she believes the improved look will help bring in more students.
Chris Banner, a junior from Champaign-Urbana studying psychology, said the campus was difficult to navigate this summer, but it has become easier with some projects’ completion. He said he likes the campus’ new look and thinks it could attract more students to the university.
David Palm, a junior from Schaumburg studying plant biology, said the construction makes the campus look more appealing — especially as a transfer student. He said he does not think the ongoing construction will prevent him from reaching his classes on time.