After two major hurricanes hit South Florida this past season, many building projects throughout the state and across the nation came to a dramatic halt, including construction on the UM campus.
Two of these projects, the new School of Communication Student Center and the M. Christine Schwartz Center for Nursing and Health Studies, were particularly affected.
Both buildings were originally scheduled to be completed by the beginning of the spring 2006 semester, but the setbacks caused by the weather have pushed back their completion. The communication building is now scheduled to open in late April and the nursing complex in early May.
Despite the delays in construction, there will be no added costs to the projects.
“There was no damage to the structure, but a lot of time was lost due to the hurricane,” Laurie Reinhardt-Plotnik, director of development for the School of Nursing, said. “Supplies were very short.”
The four-story, Jerusalem stone and stucco nursing building will feature several classrooms, clinical practice labs, a simulation center and, among other things, three “smart classrooms.” The latter offer an interactive learning environment and opportunities for distance instruction with educational partners around the world. The three rooms will also be linked electronically, creating a large “cyber auditorium,” which will be used for lecture classes and visiting speakers.
The 53,000-square-foot building will enable an annual undergraduate enrollment increase from 450 to 700 nursing students.
The smaller 26,280-square-foot communications building, however, will be an addition to the relatively new Frances L. Wolfson building. The structure didn’t suffer any damages either.
“The construction site fared well throughout the season, but there was a huge shortage of windows and other construction supplies throughout the nation,” Sam L Grogg, dean of the School of Communication, said. “The contractor couldn’t seal the building. People were waiting for hours to get these windows, so we had to wait until the end of hurricane season to resume the interior work.”
The five-story structure will include faculty offices, Mac and PC labs, facilities for the Spanish Language Graduate Program, sound editing spaces for film and broadcast majors equipped with state-of-the-art Avid Nitris and Pro Tools technology and around six to seven classrooms, two of them acting as lecture halls with teleconferencing capabilities.
“The projection and multimedia equipment that are going into these halls are all HD [high-definition],” Tom Ortiz, director of engineering and operations for the School of Communication, said. “The large hall holds about 140 people and the small lecture hall holds about 70.”
The building was completely funded before construction began, with expenses totalling $6.2 million.
Orlando Bommin, the project manager for campus planning and construction for the communication building, expressed his concern about delays due to problems with the construction company, Maleta Construction.
“[Maleta] have encountered various market problems due to the hurricane season, and we’ve had some management problems with them as well,” Bommin said.
However, things now seem to be in working order to ensure its completion.
“We continually monitor the project on a daily basis to see it completed by late April,” Bommin said.
Now that hurricane season has passed, the expansion of both schools can finally be completed.
Enthusiastic students are already awaiting the opening of these new facilities.
“I’m curious to see the completed building,” Priscilla del Nero, a junior, said. “The labs [in the School of Communication]are always so full, that we could definitely use the extra space.”
Grogg also has high expectations for the new communications buildings.
“We hope to increase undergraduate enrollment by about 200 students over the next four years,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to using these facilities for the benefit of all the students.”
Ricardo Herrera can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.