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September 10, 2008
By Patrick McDonnell
The University of Nevada, Reno’s plan to reopen a renovated Getchell Library building in 2011 for much-needed student support services and fine arts space is contingent on Nevada State Legislature funding of $10.5 million to implement code upgrades to the 46-year-old building.
The University submitted a capital-improvement project request to the State Public Works Board that includes a new sprinkler and fire alarm system, improvements to the building’s exits and upgrades for disabled patrons including enhancements to restrooms. The renovated four-story building would not be used in its traditional role of library services (the facility was closed in conjunction with the Aug. 11 opening of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center), but might accommodate such offices as Student Success Services, Counseling Services, a proposed Women’s Center as well as music practice rooms and studio space for the art, dance and theater departments, said Provost’s Office official Paul Neill.
Discussions on the building’s future use will be ongoing, said Neill. Some consolidation of student support facilities on campus is a University priority, along with providing needed space for School of the Arts departments that have outgrown their current facilities in the Church Fine Arts Building and the Virginia Street Gym.
“If our capital-improvement project request is funded by July 2009, we will start an 18- to 22-month preliminary construction schedule,” said Steve Mischissin, the University’s interim associate vice president for Facilities Services. “Renovations always have their difficulties. We have asbestos in the building, so we’re going to have to deal with that. We’ll retrofit the fire alarm and sprinkler systems. It’ll be much like the work we did on the University Inn (built in 1967 for student housing, closed in 2006, and reopened in 2008 as Sierra Hall — a residence hall for upperclassmen).”
University officials are enthusiastic about the opportunity to use existing space at a renovation cost of about $60 per square foot rather than the alternative — demolishing Getchell and constructing a new building on the site at an estimated cost of several hundred dollars per square foot.
“The greenest building, sometimes, is the one you don’t build,” said University President Milt Glick of the 177,000-square-foot Getchell, at a Sept. 4 town hall meeting with campus faculty, staff and students in the Joe Crowley Student Union.
“Getchell is close to the historic University Quad, close to the residence halls, and it’s on a major arterial pathway through the campus. It’s an ideal location for a student support center.” Neill added.
Under the renovation plan, 155,000 square feet of the building would be usable, Mischissin said. The newer bookstack area created at the extreme north end of the building in a 1975 expansion is impractical to renovate.