Virginia Tech Magazine

Volume 17, Number 2
Winter 1995

Virginia Tech on the Grow: Sprouting more buildings, growing more wild

by Su Clauson-Wicker

There is one thing Virginia Tech alumni can count on--the Virginia Tech you will see when you return is not the same Virginia Tech you left at graduation. As Tech's facilities play catch up with university operations, some of Virginia Tech's green areas will sprout new buildings. But some of campus' open spaces will become wilder and forest-like. Growth is proceeding on every end of campus. Two new residence halls may emerge from the lawn across the Mall from Squires Student Center, and the ground will be broken soon in the Whittemore Hall parking lot for a 100,000-square-foot engineering building. A student health and fitness center will likely sprout out of the football practice field on south campus within three years, the fiber optics laboratory on Plantation Road has just been completed, and the Fralin Center for Biotechnology across from Hillcrest Hall will be finished in the summer of 1995. Yet, in the midst of all this development, the extensive lawns of southwest campus will receive help in their inclination to go wild.

Reforestation of south campus

Virginia Tech will actively assist about 100 acres to return to forest. More native hardwoods, such as oaks and hickories, will be planted around the Duck Pond, the veterinary college, and the president's home. The university will truck in leaf mulch to spread around these groves and seed native grasses in selected spots. Eventually, high-maintenance turf grass will revert to forest vegetation. Dogwoods and other undergrowth shrubs will grow in the sunlight at the borders. "Surrounding hardwoods with turf grass isn't really good for the trees' health," says University Architect Peter Karp. "The soil is compacted every time a lawn mower passes over. This shortens the trees' life span." The venture probably will begin in fall 1995 as a demonstration project in front of the veterinary college. The horticulture garden and physical plant will collaborate on the project, with possible involvement of several academic departments. Although the reversion to native forest won't be complete for at least 30 years, Karp says enthusiasm for the project is high. "The people who mow the turf grass are delighted," he adds.

Bond projects nearing completion

A library storage building--the first general obligation bond project completed--was erected near the German Club. Karp describes the $2.6-million structure as "a big air-conditioned box for storing books." The conversion of old Major Williams Hall from residences into office and classroom space should be complete by the end of spring. A little further on down the timeline are the new engineering and architecture facilities, both scheduled for completion by the end of 1996. The 100,000-square-foot building to be constructed in the Whittemore parking lot behind Randolph Hall will house engineering departments. The master plan also includes a 40,000-square-foot underground architecture building that will extend from Cowgill beneath its front plaza. Pedestrians will be able to look down through skylights to see people working in the studios below.

New fitness center, soccer complex change south campus

Construction on a new student health and fitness center near the greenhouses will begin in the summer of 1995. The $20-million facility includes an indoor pool, gyms, weight rooms, and treatment areas for health services--including emergency services, an out-patient clinic, and counseling rooms. The center will be funded by student fees. Also on the boards is a synthetic running track surrounding a competition-grade soccer field. Ground breaking for this complex is likely to be summer 1995, depending upon the success of athletic fund raising. Also next summer, Spring Road (which passes between the stadium and the field house) will be realigned so that it crosses Southgate and passes directly up the hill to the Corporate Research Center, instead of swinging onto Southgate for a few hundred feet before veering off again. The new intersection will eliminate complicated traffic patterns. It will be funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation, which maintains all campus roads. Several new playing fields, including a women's softball field, will be created with the additional space. Conversion of military quad marches on The university has just received state authorization to build two new residence halls. The Mall in front of Rasche Hall is a prime location, although other sites are being considered. The $15-million project, to be funded by dormitory fees, is slated for completion by 1998. New buildings will be constructed of limestone "Hokie stone" to match the old buildings that ring the Drillfield. When these halls are finished, Rasche and Brodie join Major Williams Hall as faculty office and classroom space. On the other side of the upper quad, the old print shop will become a fine arts center, housing art offices and small studio spaces by July. The former laundry building will become home to the Virginia Power Electronics Center by the end of 1995, depending upon funding.

New approaches

The Virginia Tech Airport has started work on its new terminal. The $1.6-million project is funded primarily by the Virginia Department of Aviation and the Federal Aviation Administration as a Blacksburg community amenity. A new highway entrance to Virginia Tech is also in the master plan. Instead of coming in on Southgate Drive to Lane Stadium, first-time traffic to campus will be routed along Prices Fork to West Campus Drive, where views of the Drillfield and Duck Pond quickly orient visitors. "These views also are more visually impressive," says Karp. This change will be instituted and signs erected when the campus information center, now on Southgate Drive, is relocated.

Virginia Tech Magazine Volume 17, Number 2 Winter 1995