August 15, 2011 — Newcomb Hall, the University of Virginia's student activities building, remains open despite renovations that have closed parts of it.
Following construction delays, the ballroom is scheduled to open in late September. The 4,600-square-foot ballroom, which is undergoing extensive renovation to install new plaster, a new floor and state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, had originally been scheduled to reopen in May, but that was delayed until June and then until September.
"We discovered water infiltration problems with the windows on the cusp of beginning the floor installation," said Dade Van Der Werf, U.Va. supervisory senior project manager. "Once temporary repairs were completed, controls issues with the existing air handlers arose. These came after time spent correcting the new acoustic plaster finish."
The leaking windows and excess humidity delayed the installation of the hardwood floor in the ballroom, lounge and connected meeting room. The ballroom's balcony is also being closed and converted to storage as part of the project.
Newcomb Hall, a student activities center and one of the busiest buildings on Grounds, is undergoing extensive renovation to add space, spruce up facilities and incorporate new technology. The $33 million, multi-phase project, which began in May 2010, is scheduled for completion in fall 2012.
"Newcomb Hall was built in 1954 as a student center and it has undergone renovations about every 10 years," Van Der Werf said. "We're improving the quality of the activity and assembly spaces, because Newcomb Hall is small for a student center and it is heavily utilized."
Some sections of Newcomb have been closed during the work, but the building itself will remain open with as many activities as possible taking place.
"We can have, on an average day, 30 different events from 8 a.m. to midnight," said William Ashby, assistant vice president of student affairs and associate dean of students.
Aside from renovating activity spaces, the 160,000-square-foot building will expand its footprint by roughly 20,000 square feet with a two-story addition. That project will add about 500 new dining seats, as well as a new front entrance. The extension will consume about a quarter of the plaza between Newcomb Hall and the University Bookstore – which itself is in the final stages of expansion atop the Central Grounds Parking Garage.
Van Der Werf said crews are completing the foundation for the Newcomb addition. The steel structure is to be erected this fall, with the shell projected to be closed in by March. The second-floor dining facilities have been closed during the summer and will reopen next week.
Because of the construction, U.Va. Dining has lost one of its dining rooms and has taken over the game room on the second floor to partially make up for the space. A take-away food area with an enhanced menu, called "Newcomb To-Go," will be established on the south side of the former game room, with a separate entrance and exit to allow students to move through quickly.
Renovation has also closed Newcomb Theater through the fall semester.
Originally, Newcomb's main entrance was on the third floor, facing McCormick Road. Today the building gets a lot of traffic from the parking garage, and many people – including most visitors – use the ground floor, west-side entrance when they arrive on Grounds. The new Newcomb Plaza entrance will be grander and more welcoming.
The information desk will remain on the ground floor, and the width of the entrance hall will double.
Although about 75 percent of the plaza has been fenced off for the expansion, the ground-floor entrance to Newcomb remains open. Pedestrians can walk south toward Newcomb Drive, but the north entrance to the plaza, behind Clemons Library, will be closed.