Kresge to undergo complete renovation

Lauren Caruba

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Northwestern is conducting preliminary assessments to renovate Kresge Hall as part of ongoing construction and building updates across campus.

Paul Weller, director of planning for Northwestern Facilities Management, said Kresge has been approved for a complete renovation that will “go in and gut” the interior. Facilities Management hopes to complete the evaluation of the building by this spring so construction can begin in the spring or summer of 2013, he said.

“It’s been on our list of buildings to be renovated,” Weller said. “It’s a list that goes back roughly a decade. It’s been a matter of trying to deal with some of the most urgent building conditions first.”

Weller said the anticipated renovations will bring Kresge up to date with other NU buildings and involve replacing air conditioning and heating systems, installing new windows and updating the bathrooms. Although the renovation proposals are still in their early stages, Weller estimated the cost for the Kresge construction to be around $55 million.

The University attached the four-story Crowe Hall to Kresge in 2003 and constructed a new office on the second floor for the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities in 2009. However, these new renovation plans signify the first complete renovation of Kresge since it opened for classes in 1954, Weller said.

“This building has fallen into disrepair in a lot of respects,” said Ezra Cook, a graduate philosophy student. “In general, it’s kind of run-down. It would be nice to have facilities at the same level as the rest of campus.”

The approval to renovate Kresge follows the natural progression of campus construction projects following the completion of renovations on Harris Hall in 2010 and Annie May Swift Hall in 2008, Weller said.

“Those were old buildings with deficient infrastructure that really needed an extensive amount of work to allow them to be used over the course of the next several decades,” he said. “That’s exactly where we’re at with Kresge.”

Kresge houses a significant portion of NU’s humanities classes and departments, including foreign languages, comparative literary studies, art theory and practice and art history. Kresge is comprised of 96 offices and 32 classrooms that can accommodate 1,300 students, not taking into account the space provided by Crowe.

Weller said one of the biggest obstacles with the Kresge renovation will be the temporary relocation of classes and faculty offices.

“Kresge is one of the most heavily used buildings on campus,” Weller said. “This is certainly going to be one of the most complicated of the renovations that we will have done in the last 10, 15 years.”

Weller said the University plans to utilize the space at 1800 Sherman Ave., a large office building used during the Harris and Annie May Swift renovations. Because so many faculty and students use Kresge on a regular basis, the University will also have to look at additional relocation spaces on campus.

The project will be further complicated by the building’s art theory practice studios, which Weller said are special spaces that have unique needs.

Students and faculty have also expressed the desire for Kresge classrooms to have more modern technology and spaces where students can work. Cook said he has noticed a lack of “smart classrooms” in the building and commented on the cramped quarters in some of the classrooms.

“It’s just obvious that the building has gotten older,” said Ashley Schaefer, program assistant for the NU department of art history. “Some of the spaces could use an upgrade in technology. There aren’t a lot of student working areas for collaboration.”

Weinberg senior Fiona Teo has been taking Japanese, Korean and Chinese classes in Kresge throughout her NU career. She said she hopes the renovations to Kresge will make the building more visually appealing.

“When I came here the first time freshman year, I thought it was very depressing,” Teo said. “It’s just like a high school.”

Weller listed Fisk Hall, Lunt Hall and the Music Administration Building as being next in line after Kresge for renovations.