Falling concrete limits Marvin Center access

University officials closed the Marvin Center’s H Street entrance earlier this week after chunks of concrete fell from the building’s fifth floor window ledges.

Administrators said the immediate structural damage should be repaired this week, but the incident has raised concern about delayed plans for renovation of the 28-year-old student center.

A $20 million, two-and-a-half-year renovation plan is slated to begin this fall – the newest incarnation of large-scale renovation plans discussed since 1988.

GW Associate Vice President for Business Affairs Al Ingle said repair of this week’s damage originally was scheduled to be completed Tuesday, but was pushed back to Wednesday afternoon.

Ingle said the University thoroughly checked the building after the concrete fell Monday afternoon. He said the University has identified the building’s trouble spots and that administrators expect no further problems.

The Marvin Center has not undergone a full-scale renovation in its 28-year history, Marvin Center Governing Board Chair Jonathan Pompan said. Minor repairs have been done inside the building, but so far the facility never has been renovated on a larger scale.

Renovation plans have been in the works since 1988, but budget constraints and zoning ordinances halted proposed construction in 1992, Pompan said.

He said the Marvin Center has been in “renovation limbo” for the past six years. The construction of the J Street dining facility in 1994 is the only completed renovation in the construction proposal.

“Some may say that the Marvin Center is in a state of decay,” Pompan said last week.

Pompan said renovations to the student center, the construction of New Hall and the groundbreaking for the health and wellness center were to be part of a “new construction era on campus.”

Talks resumed in the spring of 1995 to re-identify priorities and create a scaled-down version of the 1988 plan. But financial difficulties, zoning approval and scheduling concerns again stood in the way of the project’s completion.

Pompan said the falling concrete this week highlights the structural problems the Marvin Center faces.

“Now more than ever there is a need for renovations,” Pompan said.

Michael Gargano, executive director of the Student Activities Center, called the current plan “long overdue.”

“A lot of the improvements that will be made, people won’t be able to see,” said Michael Peller, executive director of Student and Academic Support Administrative Services and director of the Marvin Center.

The first step of the plan is the current renovation of restrooms in the building – a plan aimed to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But beyond structural changes, the current proposal aims to create a mall-like atmosphere within the facility – retail space and expanded student services offices are part of the plan, Pompan said.

Other proposed features include an atrium, an information-kiosk area and a new ballroom to be completed in 1999, Ingle said.

Ingle said demolition of the ground floor will begin this summer and construction will begin during the fall semester.

He said no exact dates have been set for official presentation of the plan or for when the work will begin, Ingle said.

Pompan said the University has spent about $4 million from student fees to create a $35 million proposal of blueprints, models and materials.

University administrators hope to complete the final review of the proposal and create a final schematic between now and the middle of March, Ingle said.

“There’s not a lot now that’s going to hold up the renovation project. I can say with 98 percent certainty that this will happen,” Ingle said. “I can say with confidence that by the middle of the year 2000, students should have an outstanding space.

“I don’t think that the (the falling concrete) has any effect on the renovation plans,” he said. “We anticipate to bid the work to architects by June or July and begin construction this fall.”

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