June 10th, 1999
By Tim Terman
West Virginia University will take the first step toward major campus changes at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 20— West Virginia Day — when University officials break ground for a new library on the downtown campus.
The five-story, 124,000-square-foot consolidated complex will cost $30 million and should be completed in two years. This is the first groundbreaking for three projects included in the initial phase of WVU’s master plan — a 10-year blueprint for more than $254 million in both new construction and renovations to existing buildings on the two Morgantown campuses. The first three projects are to be completed by 2001.
The groundbreaking, which is open to the public, will take place on the front lawn of the Charles C. Wise Jr. Library. WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. and new Libraries Dean Frances O’Brien will take part in the ceremony.
The groundbreaking was scheduled on the state’s birthday to signify the Libraries’ role as “guardians of knowledge about West Virginia, its culture and its heritage,” according to John Cuthbert, curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection at WVU.
He said a tradition will return, for this year, when limited-edition posters celebrating the state’s history are presented to all who attend the groundbreaking. These posters were first published in 1987, each with a theme. This year’s theme, “library resources through the ages,” will be represented by a range of resources from a laptop computer to a still life of Stonewall Jackson’s pencil box as well as the diary of Porte Crayon, pen name of the 19th century artist and journalist David Hunter Strother.
The library facility, to be built on the sloping lawn in front of the existing library, will be designed to provide easy access to both paper and electronic resources. A multi-story atrium with a skylight will join the new library to Wise. Besides the new building, renovations to the existing library and consolidation of library facilities in Colson Hall and the Chemistry Research Building are planned.
“Library staff, faculty and administrators are thrilled that a beautiful new facility which will have both the comfortable ambience of a traditional library and state-of-the-art technology enhancements is being built on WVU’s campus,” said Myra Lowe, interim dean. “The University’s learning environment is being greatly enriched with a building designed to function well in the fast-changing information environment of the 21st century.”
Ruth Nellis, construction coordinator, said building is scheduled to start in July, although site preparation has already begun. Relocation of the entrance to Wise Library and redirecting pedestrians around the site is scheduled to be in place before Aug. 20.
Other library construction includes a $2.8 million off-site storage facility at the former WVU Poultry Farm off Maple Drive and $1.1 million in renovations to the Evansdale Library Both of these projects have begun.
WVU will also build a $34 million Student Recreation Center and a $43 million Life Sciences Building. Construction on the Rec Center is set for summer; the life sciences building will get under way in the fall.
Bond sales will finance the library and life sciences projects, while funding for the Student Recreation Center will come from a $90 student fee increase to go into effect when the facility opens.
The University also plans to build an Administrative Services Center on the waterfront at a cost of $20 million. The facility will house WVU’s Visitors Center and other units and is part of a larger hotel and conference center complex being constructed by Platinum Properties.