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New construction at Va. Tech tops $1 billion

BLACKSBURG—Virginia Tech has undergone a construction boom since Charles Steger became president in 1999, with projects either completed or underway topping $1 billion.

“We have no intention of slowing down,” Steger told The Roanoke Times.

The university’s pursuit of research funding and technology that has changed the way courses are taught have driven much of the effort to modernize infrastructure.

“With the new technologies, the type of classroom that you need is quite different,” Steger said. “One of our biggest problems is not having enough electrical outlets in classrooms. The way in which new technology is used in teaching requires new buildings.”

One example is Davidson Hall, home of the chemistry program, which is undergoing a $31 million renovation.

“The wiring and other facilities were almost a health hazard,” Steger said. “You couldn’t do modern chemistry in a 1920s facility.”

A $95 million engineering building is being constructed because of similar needs.

Steger said the university also needs space for faculty and scientists to do research.

“It’s like having a carpenter without a saw,” he said.

In recent years, the university has opened research facilities for several programs, including the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.

Steger said Virginia Tech also needs sports facilities to help it remain a nationally recognized athletic program. Those are paid for by student fees, private donations and revenues from the sports program, not by taxpayer funds.

Student fees, research revenues, private donations and other sources have paid for about half the construction projects, and state bond issues and taxpayer revenues have funded the remainder.

Alternative transportation and strategically placed parking garages will be increasingly emphasized by new development as university officials strive to maintain a “walkable” campus. So far, two such parking garages have been built.

“If you want to keep the campus so that a student can walk from one class to another within 15 minutes, you can’t have but so much space taken up by parking. That’s why we need the parking garages,” Steger said. “We still haven’t solved the parking problem.”

Tech officials also plan to demolish the Corps of Cadets’ four dormitories and replace them with modern facilities over the next four years. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources approved the project, which will cost $90 million.

“Of course we always regret the loss of any historic buildings,” said Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the state agency. “But none of the alternatives we asked them to explore for adaptive reuse were feasible.”

In exchange for demolishing the dorms, Tech will renovate and preserve the oldest building on the Blacksburg campus, Lane Hall, and will apply to have it placed on the state and national historic registers.



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