February 18, 2013
IU's historic Old Crescent expected to get $21 million appropriation for restoration
By Mike Leonard
February 17, 2013
The project list for Indiana University's backlog of deferred maintenance is decidedly unsexy.
It includes roof replacements, building code updates, steam tunnel repairs and various updates and upgrades that students, faculty and staff won't see but surely will feel if systems fail.
The plan to renovate and "repurpose" the core of the Bloomington campus is another matter. Shortly after the release of IU's master plan in 2009, President Michael A. McRobbie seized on one of its key recommendations and called for the creation of a working group to assess the current and future use of the buildings in what is called "the Old Crescent."
"The way we use the magnificent iconic buildings that comprise the Old Crescent -- the historic core of the campus -- does not properly reflect the university's core missions of education and research," the president said in his 2010 State of the University Address. "Only about half of them house academic units, and the rest house administrative units that could be situated in less physically and symbolically central locations.
"Whether we intend it or not, our buildings reflect our values," he continued. "The Old Crescent should be among the main academic centers on campus and a vibrant hub of student and academic life and activity, day and night."
The Old Crescent consists of buildings constructed as early as 1884 and includes Franklin Hall, the Student Building, Maxwell Hall, Owen Hall, Wylie Hall, Kirkwood Hall, Lindley Hall, Swain East and West and Rawles Hall.
The aesthetic, historic and functional value of the buildings is recognized by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, which, even during a time of constrained resources, is recommending that the Legislature appropriate $21 million this year specifically for the Old Crescent project.
Work already has begun. At last week's meetings of the IU Board of Trustees, capital planning and facilities vice president Tom Morrison said Franklin Hall has been completely vacated of offices and personnel and is ready for a full renovation. The chopped up Presidents' Hall has been restored to its original grandeur, and only finishing touches remain before the project is considered completed within about two weeks.
The next meeting of the trustees -- April 11-12 -- is slated to be conducted in the new space overlooking Sample Gates.
Morrison said there's enough room in the building for an academic unit to move there. Journalism, which long ago outgrew Ernie Pyle Hall, is one unit that has been mentioned as a possible new occupant.
The other buildings in the crescent will see more classrooms added, and fewer office spaces, to bring more students into the historic core of the campus. Owen Hall, the smallest academic building on campus, will become the new home to the College of Arts and Sciences.
And the historic office of the legendary 11th IU President, Herman B Wells, will remain preserved exactly as it was when Wells held court in Owen Hall.
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