Marist Construction Displaces Faculty
Catholic University continues to recover from the earthquake damage it sustained over a year ago as a portion of Marist Hall remains closed off to faculty and students.
“Work in the 24 buildings previously mentioned is ongoing, with the most disruptive occurring in Marist Hall,” declared Jerry Conrad, associate vice president for facilities operations.
The west wing of Marist Hall, the four-story brick building constructed in 1899, was closed after engineers assessing the scene deemed it structurally unsafe for occupancy. Out of an “abundance of caution,” University officials closed the entire building for the length of last year’s fall semester.
“Emergency design work has begun on Marist Hall, one of the oldest buildings on Catholic University’s campus. Working with Keast & Hood structural engineers, Cho Benn Holback is designing the remedial repairs necessary to repair seismic damage caused by last year’s earthquake,” stated Cho Benn Holback & Associates, the company behind the repairs to Marist, on their website.
Much of Marist was reopened in time for the beginning of the spring semester of last school year, including portions of the damaged west wing and the basement, where many of the English department graduate students are housed. The basement, listed in the directory as Marist 19, is slated for closure for the remainder of the current semester.
With the closure of the basement space, all of the English graduate students and teaching fellows will not have permanent offices for what is left of the semester.
“Although it is inconvenient for the English Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows to be without permanent office space again this semester, we are at least experienced in how to deal with such a transient state,” stated Heather Judd, graduate teaching fellow in the department of English.
Marist was only one of the buildings damaged last year. McMahon Hall, which houses University admissions, suffered a damaged roof, and two of its chimneys, weighing upwards of thirteen tons each, had to be removed after they were deemed unstable. Authorities feared the chimneys would fall through the roof. The incident left the main doors of McMahon closed off for some time as the University made all of the necessary repairs.
“We will probably be making good use of Mullen Library and the Starbucks area in the Pryz to make ourselves accessible to students,” said Judd. “Ultimately, I am glad that the University is working to ensure the safety of Marist for everyone who uses the building.”
Even though Catholic University is located in the District of Columbia, the damage was covered by the school’s earthquake insurance, allowing all of the necessary repairs to get the school up and running in time for the start of the academic year to be made and saving Marist from demolition.
“Occupant disruptions are inherent to most construction projects; through our planning process, we strive to keep disruption and relocation to a minimum,” said Conrad. “Some faculty offices in the affected areas of Marist Hall are still in alternate locations.”
It is predicted that the renovations being done to Marist Hall will be completed by the beginning of next year.
To better prepare everyone on campus on earthquake protocol, the University will participate in the Great Southeast Shakeout earthquake drill, similar to the drill in which the school partook last year.
“The October drill will serve as a useful reminder of how we need to respond in the event of an earthquake,” said Victor Nakas, associate vice president for public affairs.
With a portion of Marist closed, there will be offices scattered throughout campus, as there is no space large enough to sufficiently house the entire displaced Marist population.
Faculty space is not the only tight squeeze on campus, with the housing department seeing an increase in the amount of on-campus residency applicants.
“Although there were still spaces on campus for juniors and seniors after the room selection process was completed last spring, the amount of housing applications we received during the summer months increased significantly,” said Heidi Zeich, director of housing services.
With the influx of students desiring to live on campus, administrators are finding themselves looking for more space, even affiliating themselves with nearby housing complexes.
“In order to meet the demand from students who applied during the summer months, we recommended continuing University Affiliated Housing located at The Cloisters,” stated Zeich. “CUA currently leases 13 apartments at The Cloisters and in turn assigns these spaces to juniors and seniors.”
As for concerns that the campus is not prepared for another unexpected natural disaster, the administration has stated that Catholic University is still covered by earthquake insurance.
“The Emergency Management Plan is modified and updated on an annual basis,” said Conrad. “Although the fundamentals remain consistent, the plan is never in a state of completion; rather it is a living document.”