MCLA begins $15 million renovation of Bowman Hall


Photo Gallery | Renovation of Bowman Hall underway at MCLA

NORTH ADAMS -- A $15 million renovation is underway on Bowman Hall at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, with officials expecting the building to be completed by June 2015.

"What's magical about a renovation like this is everything gets some attention," said James Stakenas, vice president of administration and finance. "We'll have new windows, an elevator, more efficient heating and cooling. ... It's magical because it will look and smell like new when we walk in the door."

The overhaul of the 60,000-square-foot building, which opened in 1970, is funded by the same $54 million construction bond which created the college's new Center for Science and Innovation. That 65,000-square-foot building opened last fall between Blackinton and Porter streets.

Construction on Bowman began at the end of June, with Eastern General Constructors, Inc. of Springfield serving as the general contractor. Local subcontractors also serve on the project.

The building will house the college's mathematics and computer science departments, Stakenas said, as well as visual arts and a robotics lab. The college's vice president of academic affairs and dean of undergraduate affairs will be moved from the President's House at 87 Blackinton St. to Bowman.

The renovation calls for installation of modern, energy-efficient components including light fixtures and windows, Stakenas said, as well as air conditioning.

The administration is in talks with faculty about what technology will be in classroom space, Stakenas said.

"We're talking about installing plasma or LED screens in the front of classrooms, as opposed to a projector," he said. "The cost has come down remarkably, and clarity is significantly sharper. ... Some of the faculty are very excited about that as a possibility."

The most drastic change, Stakenas said, will be the removal of the two lecture halls on the north end of the building's lowest level.

"It's impossible to make those multiple-step spaces handicap accessible," he explained.

A hallway on the lowest level will be extended, he said, for additional classrooms, a computer science lab, and a faculty center.

Two open "holes" on the quad level and second floor will be filled in, he said. A new vestibule on the quad level will act as a buffer from the outside elements, such as extreme cold, heat and leaves.

In addition, an art gallery is anticipated for the quad level.

The renovation meant finding other spaces for instruction -- painting and drawing classes were moved to Mass MoCA's Building 13 last year to accommodate for preconstruction and will remain through the renovation, Stakenas said.

Former biology labs in Venable Hall already had been decommissioned and turned into general classrooms with the opening of the science center, Stakenas said. Additional classrooms were found in conference rooms in Murdock and office space in the Church Street Center.

Once Bowman is completed, the college will turn its attention to Venable, Stakenas said.

"We're looking at the top floor of Venable for more student space -- more dance areas, possibly a larger fitness center, and student programming," he said. "Students are taking advantage of all of the space on campus that's available, and we'd like to provide more for activities."

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