University offers updates on campus construction

By Anna Toth

A few blocks away from campus on East 25th Street, caution barrels are the first thing visible when walking up to Cleveland State’s Plant Services building. They block off a small square of space on the right side of the building where employees can swipe their cards and enter while an arrow, confusingly, points right, instructs visitors to go around to the other side of the building.

Following the arrow, visitors walk a narrow path between the building and the chain link fence that separates the property from I-90. Cords, cables and safety tape are scattered on the path and hidden beneath snow and slush.

Plant Services isn’t used to visitors. The door’s locked with no way to buzz into the building and request entry. Bruce Ferguson, university architect at Cleveland State University, is happy to answer questions as well as show off various knick-knacks around the office that makes the place unique.

“We service all 85 acres [of Cleveland State’s campus],” Ferguson said.

Plant Services hosts the Office of the University Architect (OUA), which helps plan and see through all of the construction on campus. The building itself is even under construction itself for safety reasons.

Currently, the department has three major projects under active construction: sidewalk updates, the Washkewicz College of Engineering and the upcoming Film School.

Earlier in the school year, the university found around $500,000 in a deferred maintenance bond that was unallocated. With that money, the department decided to fix some of the sidewalks around campus that were problem areas.

“The concrete in a lot of places was all busted up,” Ferguson said.

Sidewalks crack and degrade all the time due to freezing, thawing, roots of trees among other reasons. But after Feb. 1, whatever money is left over from that maintenance bond will be put towards the new engineering building instead.

For that reason, the work continues despite the winter weather to make sure that as many sidewalks are replaced  as possible before Feb. 1. Construction is expected to be finished just after that date.

The Washkewicz College of Engineering’s new building, Washkewicz Hall, is the biggest and most recent project that the OUA has been working on. While the outer shell is completed and the building has already had its dedication ceremony, project leader Maryanne Stone says the building is far from being completed.

The building was constructed with help from a $20 million donation from Donald and Pamela Washkewicz and the Parker Hannifin Foundation. The building is going to support more of the teaching laboratories needed for engineering students rather than the classrooms.

“Phase one is the offices, so the dean’s support team occupies the third floor,” Stone said.

There’s freshman labs and a classroom on the first floor. In total, there are five floors, including the MakerSpace located in the basement. Stone describes the space as a high-tech factory where engineering students can build prototypes of what they’re designing. With the design of the building, people will be able to look down into the MakerSpace from every floor.

“It’s more of a hands-on lab,” Stone said.

A lot of the lab space was custom built for Cleveland State’s engineering students. There’s a lab dedicated to their driving simulator, with space for their car and everything. Some labs needed fume hoods, sinks, access to gas and other chemicals as well.

While basic to some, these are all the elements that make Washkewicz College of Engineering a competitive school.

Washkewicz Hall is connected to Fenn Hall on every level, allowing students access to classrooms and the Inner Link.  Most of the classrooms and spaces in the building are either simulation classrooms or labs. However, this is only with the first phase of the Washkewicz building.

There is another perk to the engineering building as well. Because of the L shape it creates with Fenn Hall, there’s going to be outdoor space behind the building for the engineers to enjoy.

“You’re an engineer and you’re tired of being in a cave,” Stone said, “You can go out, have lunch enjoy the fresh air.”

But the building is only halfway done and none of the space is open to students yet. The dean of the college, Dr. Anette Karlsson, occupies the third floor in her office. But that’s about as far as the aesthetics go.

Closer to summer, furniture and artwork will be put into Washkewicz Hall and make phase one feel more complete. Phase two will be completed sometime in the next year.

The film school is the next big project that the OUA is working on. Located in the Idea Center in Playhouse Square, the film school will be in the CSU Arts Campus alongside Art, Dance and Theatre majors.

University architect explains that the film school will take up a 38,000 square foot floor above the WVIZ television station —which is a bonus in and of itself.

“That gives the opportunity for students to intern for the public radio or television station,” Ferguson said.

The film school is scheduled to be ready in fall 2018, but not a lot of details are known yet. Ferguson did delve into some, though.

“There’s going to be  video rooms and computer labs where students can learn how to create and edit media,” Ferguson said.

The Office of the University Architect’s main job is to look over everything on campus and make updates when necessary, as well as add in new buildings and find room for new projects.

While the engineering school has taken priority recently, they also have a few other projects going on in every part of campus. This includes an upcoming project with the business building, as well as renovations to viewing rooms and office spaces inside the Wolstein Center.

Basically, there’s never a threat of running out of projects.

“We’ve got a number of [projects],” Ferguson said. “We have more irons in the fire at any given time than projects that are actually happening.”


Leave a Reply