Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier Editor-in-Chief
On May 18, donors, students and alumni gathered outside the historic Ford Auditorium for an official groundbreaking ceremony. Since then, construction crews have been at work updating the building, which was originally built in 1928.
According to Todd Bradford, director of strategic property planning, the construction has recently transitioned from work on the inner-workings of the building to finishing touches such as the ceiling. Bradford said that the renovation is expected to be complete by the beginning of spring semester in 2020.
Plans for the project include a redesign of the auditorium interior and lobby space, as well as restoration of historical details of the building. Architects paid particular attention to updating the acoustics of the space, as the auditorium hosts over 40 concerts annually. Aspects of the design such as an enlarged stage, digital lighting and sound systems, acoustical paneling and new seating are hoped to enhance the performance experience for performers and audience members alike.
“Going to a musical performance is going to be an incredible experience when this is finished,” Bradford said. “It’s going to be a fantastic venue for people to go to see multiple types of performance.”
Work on Barnwell Chapel began in March and is expected to be finished by the end of 2019. The chapel, built in 1911, has served as a classroom, wedding venue and church since its original construction but was in need of restoration.
According to Mark Simpson, assistant director of the physical plant, the goal is to restore Barnwell to its original form. In order to achieve this goal with as much accuracy as possible, planners consulted archived photos of the chapel. Among the changes being made to the chapel are window and roof restoration, exterior log replacement, foundation repairs and a new handicapped-accessible entrance.
During this year’s Alumni Work Week, held the last week in May, Al Christopher (61c) and a team of alumni workers assisted in the window restoration. This was only one of the Berry touches added to the Barnwell project.
Simpson said that all of the lumber used for the exterior log restoration was cut from slow-growth pines on Berry property, as it was when the chapel was built originally. This added a challenge to the project because it was time-consuming work. Harvesting began last winter.
“It took six months to get that processing done, but it’s worth it that the logs come from Berry,” Simpson said.
The Spires at Berry College
While several historic buildings on campus were updated this summer, construction continued on the brand-new complex for The Spires at Berry College, a continuing care retirement community that broke ground in October of 2018.
According to Monika Lawrence, marketing director for The Spires, the facility is 82 percent reserved and residents are expected to move into their new homes in June of 2020.
Currently, construction crews are working on completing the cottages, 26 stand-alone residences. The Spires complex will also include apartment housing in the lodge buildings, a health center and many other resources for residents. Lawrence anticipates that the entire facility, including finished interiors, will be complete by the end of 2020.
Aside from the residential experience that the community will provide, Lawrence is excited about the opportunities that the facility will create for Berry students. The Spires team anticipates offering about 50 student work jobs in everything from exercise science to hospitality. Beyond these employment opportunities, Lawrence sees potential for Berry students to develop meaningful mentor relationships with residents of The Spires.
“[The residents] are vibrant, active, feisty, intelligent, kind,” Lawrence said. “I think it’s going to bring so much energy to the Rome community. It’s going to be really fun to witness these relationships evolve.”