UF plans to renovate Newell Hall with newfound money
Published: Monday, November 26, 2012 at 5:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 at 5:55 p.m.
University of Florida students likely will be getting a library without books in one of the oldest buildings on campus.
UF plans to convert Newell Hall into a study center with electronic access to research materials but no books. Built more than 100 years ago, the hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
UF President Bernie Machen proposed in 2009 to convert the hall into a study center, but the project was scuttled by budget cuts. UF recently learned that a student fee increase will generate about $13 million more than initially estimated, allowing the idea to be revived.
Student Government President T.J. Villamil said a survey of students found a demand for places to study on campus beyond an often-packed Library West.
“This is a perfect way to solve, I think, students’ No. 1 problem on campus right now,” he said.
UF’s board of trustees heard a presentation Monday on the project. Trustees previously had approved a $2 per credit hour building fee increase to help fund the Reitz Union’s renovation and expansion. The Board of Governors initially estimated it would raise about $20 million for the union project.
But the board, the governing body of the state university system, recently revised its estimate to about $33 million. If trustees approve next week, UF will submit a new plan to use the extra money to pay for the Newell Hall study center.
The hall was built in 1910 as an agricultural experiment station next to fields where students received hands-on research experience. It was renovated during World War II and has fallen into disrepair in recent years.
Machen proposed using federal stimulus money to convert the hall into a study center before state budget cuts led to the money being used elsewhere. UF’s soil and water science department this year vacated the building because of a lack of funding for repairs there.
Vice President for Student Affairs Dave Kratzer said the study center project will maintain the hall’s historic look but provide for major renovations and new technology.
“It’s going to completely change that building,” he said.
He said the project will be similar to a learning center at the University of Georgia. That center includes an “electronic library” with computer stations and reference desks along with other features such as study rooms and a coffee shop.
Kratzer said students are asking for more places to study on campus even as they gain more mobility from wireless devices. While UF has considered adding more study space to the Reitz Union, he said Newell Hall would be a more appropriate place for studying.
“We really don’t want (the union) to be an extension of the library,” he said. “We want it to be the active space.”
Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.thecampussun.com for more stories on the University of Florida.
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