Norman Hall renovations project jumps on fast track

It's too soon to don a hard hat, but excitement is building as design plans for a top-to-bottom makeover of Norman Hall begin to take shape.

It’s too soon to don a hard hat, but the excitement is building. 

As you read this, architects, systems engineers and other members of a construction management team members are several months immersed in the design phase of a top-to-bottom overhaul of Norman Hall, the College of Education’s historic home.

The planning precedes a two-year construction project that will transform the stately but aging, red-brick building, a collegiate Gothic-style structure built in 1934. Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature earmarked nearly $29 million in funding for the long-needed improvements. Another $3 million allocation will pay for refurbishment of the Education Library annex, built in 1979.

The planning team began discussing design needs and ideas in July with UF and College of Education administrators and college employee groups. Education Dean Glenn Good says the college should have engineering study reports and building design schematics for interior space planning in hand by year’s end.

The heavy renovation and construction work is expected to begin in January “at the earliest,” according to Good, but some initial infrastructure work outside the building (such as utility lines) may get underway between now and then.

Associate Dean Tom Dana, managing the project’s day-to-day activities and logistics on the college’s end, said the target completion date—“always subject to change”—is the summer of 2019.

“Many details remain in flux,” Dana says, “but we are making good progress toward the goal of substantial completion of a rehabilitated Norman Hall no later than Sept 2019, with plans for full occupancy and use in January 2020.”

Some of the first issues the college must face are obtaining the required approval from two historic preservation review committees (the state’s and UF’s) and some whopping logistical challenges, such as temporarily moving classrooms and offices to other location during construction.

Norman Hall, originally built to house the college’s P.K. Yonge K-12 Laboratory School (which it did until 1958), was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and any repairs or construction on historic properties must be approved so any harm to them can be avoided or minimized.

The project’s first major phase—emptying and vacating classrooms, labs and offices in the newer (1979) Norman Hall Annex wing and relocating to other space elsewhere in the original Norman or on the UF campus—is tentatively scheduled to start in December. Then, in May 2018, Old Norman occupants will undergo a similar move into temporary quarters during its makeover.

The renovations and repairs will include an overhaul of the stately building’s “envelope,” meaning its infrastructure, including new roof, windows, plumbing, electrical system, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and removal of asbestos and lead paint.

Those changes will definitely turn up the comfort and convenience levels and the ambience for future occupants once the “new and improved” Norman Hall opens its doors. Perhaps the most exciting improvements, though, will be the addition of many student-centered features, such as technology upgrades, configurable classrooms and meeting spaces, more space to boost research capacity, and even installing electrical outlets to support student technology needs.

And, for the students AND professors AND educators around the state and nation, a roomy conference center will be added for hosting symposia and guest speakers. The conference center will connect to a new café bakery to be erected adjacent to the south end of the original Norman west wing.

The existing Norman Hall courtyard will be extended in and around the café with ample outdoor seating.

A small Starbucks also will set up shop in some of the space in the existing first-floor vending room.

Like the apologetic construction signs plead, Dana hopes that over the next couple years current and future Norman Hall occupants and visitors will “pardon our appearance while we make improvements.”

Or, how about posting this sign: “THE ROAD TO SUCCESS IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION.”

“With a look to the future, we will all take an extra deep breath and prepare ourselves for the tolerance and patience needed during the 18-months of disruption. We will accommodate everyone to the greatest degree possible,” Dana says. “The design and construction teams are highly familiar with the higher education context, having completed jobs big and small all over campus and at other universities. I am confident they get research and teaching priorities and will work with us to accommodate when feasible.”

Dean Good said he hopes students, faculty and staff who will be studying and teaching and working at the College of Education during the building renovations will all come together with the mindset that they will part of something really exciting and historic that will impact education in Florida for generations to come.

“The renovations will make Norman Hall more suitable for preparing the educators and educational leaders who will address the educational opportunities and challenges of the future,” Good says.

At Norman Hall one thing is for sure: the excitement is building

Now that’s a good sign.

Source: Glenn Good, Dean, UF College of Education, 352-273-4135;
Writer/Media Relations: Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137;