Every summer, Mercer University budgets for new renovations while most students are off campus.
“You have to think about how you renew your campus and make your investments wisely,” said James Netherton, the executive vice president for administration and finance.
After looking into what facilities need renovating, Netherton determines if those renovations are feasible under the time and budget limits. Decisions are then made about which are the highest priorities.
These steps led to one building going through a complete overhaul — Willet Science Center has been completely renovated for the fall semester, and faculty and labs have already begun moving in.
Willet Science Center was set to open by the spring semester of 2019, but due to construction delays, opening day was moved to the fall instead. The building will house the psychology, computer science, public health, environmental engineering and athletic training programs.
Willet received a certificate of occupancy two weeks ago, and Netherton said that, though there is still some work to be done inside, the building is complete.
While the building had a delayed start, he said this extra work was necessary.
“We have created a better, more effective, longer-lasting building than was the case before,” Netherton said.
With new classrooms, more student lounging space and Bear Card-accessible laboratories and computer labs, the new Willet Science Center will offer access for students to do more research as well as enjoy the classes and spaces for study groups.
While the computer science department makes the move to Willet, the old computer science building in the historic quad is scheduled to be removed. Netherton said the building does not have the quality design, appearance or functionality of other buildings on campus.
The goal is to start taking down the computer science building in December, so most of the disruptive work will be completed in January before classes begin. The cleared area will be used as a “green space” with ways for students to travel across campus more efficiently.
“Accessibility on campus and in the buildings is important to us,” Netherton said.
In the lecture hall of Willet, there will be room in the front row and back rows for students who use canes or wheelchairs.
There are also gender-neutral and handicap bathrooms on every floor. A new elevator was installed on the opposite end of the building to accommodate a greater student population.
“We can design these buildings with accessibility in a way where there (are) no first-class citizens that use the front door while second-class citizens must use another door. Accessibility makes it where there are no first- or second-class citizens,” Netherton said.
Across campus, Hardman Fine Arts Hall was also given new windows in order to replace the single pane windows that had been in the building since its original creation. In order to do these renovations, the university needed approval from specific historic agencies.
“It just looks worlds better and functions better. But we retained the historical character of the building,” Netherton said.
Mercer also completed renovations to residence halls.
“We believed that the upperclassmen areas were the ones that needed the work this year,” said Jeff Takac, director of Housing and Residence Life.
Some of the most recent renovations in residence life were in the Adams-Winship Apartments. All Adams-Winship apartments now have new adjustable beds to better accommodate student needs.
“Two of the Adams-Winship apartments, 1884 and 1892, were completely gutted and renovated with new wood flooring, new countertops, carpet torn out,” Takac said. “The goal for the Adams-Winship apartments is to renovate all 10 apartments within the next couple of years.”
These two Adams-Winship buildings, while completely renovated, are only a small portion of the changes made to dorms at Mercer.
The Dowell residence hall also saw the addition of new adjustable beds this semester, while the Roberts and Sherwood residence halls both received new lounge area furniture. Roberts also received new carpet. Many air conditioning units and hot water units were replaced, and most of the residence halls were repainted.
Adams-Winship and Garden apartments with older utilities received new refrigerators and stoves.
While these are the major changes occurring in preparation for the fall semester, Takac said that the Housing and Residence Life Department tries to upgrade whenever they can.
“My goal is for everyone to be happy when they move in. That’s not always possible, but we try. That’s why we’re trying to meet standards across the campus with our cleaning company and are in the process of adding more maintenance positions, with four maintenance men total. This will make any work orders come much quicker,” Takac said.