Saturday, July 26, 2014

Campus transformation begins

Anniversary — Over the past 40 years Liberty has grown and developed while working to maintain the principles and ideals valued by its founder, Jerry Falwell Sr. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

As Liberty University celebrates its 40th anniversary, the school celebrates not only a milestone, but a year of new beginnings as the revamping of campus goes underway.

When founder Jerry Falwell Sr. started Liberty in 1971, he had a vision for a world-class school, but due to a lack of resources, his vision was unable to come to life immediately.

“In the 1970s and 80s, the goal was to build affordable yet functional buildings that could be replaced when the school was financially able to do so,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said.

Forty years later, Jerry Falwell Jr. is able to fulfill the dream his father had for the campus and transform the campus into one of world-class proportions.

The transformation began with the renovation of the fourth floor of DeMoss Hall to house offices and classrooms. More building additions and renovations have turned the revamping of campus into a five-year plan. The main additions include a film school, medical school, below ground basketball practice facilities, a vehicular tunnel, a roof top patio on DeMoss, a small lake, campus east intramural/athletic complex, new academic buildings, new dorms and a free-standing library.

As the campus underwent a face lift, students and faculty had to adjust to the new changes. When students returned for the fall 2011 semester, they realized that most classes were moved to DeMoss Hall.

“The next couple of years is going to be a lot of displacement and a lot of moving,” Senior Vice President of Operations Neal Askew said. “Some people will move more than once. But we’re going to make it all happen.”

The number of parking spots near DeMoss Hall will stay the same or actually increase in number, even though the new lots are not yet shown on the architectural renderings, Jerry Falwell Jr. said. However, the number of students attending classes in or near DeMoss Hall will continue to increase as new buildings come, according to Jerry Falwell Jr.

“We are not creating a pedestrian campus,” Jerry Falwell Jr. said. “Very few parking spaces near DeMoss Hall will be eliminated….As we grow though, by necessity, our parking and transit habits will have to change. The campus will be more pedestrian-friendly but is not becoming a pedestrian campus.”

The new free-standing library is something that Jerry Falwell Jr. also thinks is going to be a huge hit.

“The new library will become the focal point of the campus and the center of student life,” Falwell said. “The plans are magnificent and will be unveiled shortly.”

Within the next five years, a Jeffersonian theme will be seen all over campus.

According to Jerry Falwell Jr., his father loved Jeffersonian architecture and insisted on using Jeffersonian architecture on the front of DeMoss Hall.

“Jeffersonian architecture is part of the identity of Central Virginia,” Falwell said. Liberty University also received its name from the principles espoused by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

Liberty University has always made the support of Jeffersonian principles of limited government, free enterprise and individual liberty part of its core mission.”

Liberty’s plan for creating world-class facilities could not have started at a better time. According to the Director of Auxiliary Services, Lee Beaumont, there are a few reasons why Liberty chose this year to start building.

“This is a perfect time to build,” Beaumont said. “Interest rates are low and construction costs are low. Another thing is environmental regulations will be getting tougher and tougher in future years which dramatically increase the cost of construction.”

Transforming the campus to one that exhibits world-class facilities does not come cheap. The majority of finances for construction are from the $120 million tax-exempt bond sale from December 2010.

“The target cost was around $120 million,” Director of Planning and Construction Charles Spence said. “But over time, it will cost a little more than that. Most recent numbers are around $150 million but, again, all of that is subject to change.”

In addition to all the changes on the five-year plan, Spence assures students and faculty that there will be a lot more announcements concerning construction in the next five years.

“It’s amazing to me…how excited students are about building projects,” Spence said. “You would think nobody cares, but they really do.”

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