The University of Virginia Grounds will appear different to many students returning this week, with bus detours, a new place to eat and even new grass under their feet.
The Grounds were abuzz this summer with renovation, restoration and installations. Several of the projects are not noticeable, such as the steam tunnel work underneath the sidewalk from Garrett Hall to Robertson Hall and utility installation along Emmet Street by the Central Grounds Garage and Memorial Gymnasium.
Other projects are highly visible. The Lawn itself is different. For the first time, the entire Lawn has been sodded, instead of seeded, in an effort to establish more mature grass at the University's centerpiece real estate. Facilities Management landscapers, working with contractors, stripped out the old grass, leveled the soil underneath and installed drainage lines.
Grounds crews also worked on the trees on the Lawn, aerating and mulching the roots and inoculating the ash trees against the emerald ash borer.
The Lawn was only one element of the work on the Academical Village. Crews have been working steadily on the restoration of the Rotunda's leaky roof. Scaffolding was erected around the dome shortly after graduation in May and crews have been testing the roof and working on replacing it. The work is expected to continue through next spring.
Lawn residents should once again have working fireplaces this winter. Maintenance crews are repairing and repointing chimneys, replacing cement flues with stainless steel ones, and repairing the dampers and fireboxes in the fireplaces in the Range and Lawn rooms. Contractors also installed a fire suppression system in Lawn and Range rooms and in the crawl spaces above the rooms.
Fires were banned last winter after cracks were found in some of the chimneys. Crews are expected to have all of the work completed by November.
Students also will have to adjust to some new bus routes. The Virginia Department of Transportation has lowered the maximum weight limit on the McCormick Road bridge to eight tons, which means University Transit System buses cannot cross. U.Va.'s Department of Parking and Transportation has posted the altered bus routes on its website.
Newcomb Hall has spent the summer in renovation, part of which includes creating a new entrance on the plaza on the west side of the building and an enlarged concourse with access to a new information desk, post office and convenience store.
Both the Pavilion XI food court and the movie theater were expanded, though occupancy will be restricted until approximately mid-September to accommodate paving around the exterior exits. Paving the west plaza should be completed between late September and early October and new windows will be installed from mid-September into October.
Plans call for the basement and first floor to be open by Aug. 24, but the Newcomb dining facility will remain closed until it reopens with new and expanded services at the beginning of the spring term. Until then, U.Va. Dining Services has constructed a temporary, two-level dining facility on the grass in front of Peabody Hall capable of accommodating up to 550 customers at a time.
During the summer, as part of a utility installation project, workers removed a set of stone stairs that led from Newcomb Road to Emmet Street. These stairs will not be replaced at the request of the University's safety committee, since they ended at Emmet Street where there was no sidewalk.
Crews are working on installing permanent ramp access to Old Cabell Hall, but this will not be completed by the start of classes. The current schedule calls for the new cast stone steps and the ramp to be installed during early September. The doorway for use once the ramp is installed will remain closed until the automatic door hardware is installed.
Renovations are also continuing in New Cabell Hall, floor by floor, to be completed in 2014.
The North Grounds Recreation Center is in the midst of a 33,000-square-foot expansion, which will add a 10-lane pool, sauna, mind/body multi-purpose fitness room and two squash courts, as well as renovations to the existing facility, which remains open. The completion is planned for August 2013.
Nearby, the Athletic Department's new indoor practice facility, located near University Hall and the McCue Center, is nearly under roof. When completed in time for spring football practice, the facility will be available to all of the University's field teams.