By Tanner Hall
Western Carolina University’s construction spree continued last week with the approval of four new projects.
In the past, capital projects exceeding $300,000 required “yes” votes from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. Starting July 1, however, all proposals under $750,000 can move forward with the blessing of a university’s Board of Trustees.
The most expensive project trustees reviewed last week is a redesign of the campus entrance on N.C. 107.
“Currently, when you turn in you don’t know that you’ve arrived,” said Mike Byers, vice chancellor for administration and finance. “We’ve got a nice design that will create a treatment there to tell you for sure, ‘You have arrived.’”
All construction proposals came back “slightly” above $750,000; however, Byers said he believes administrators can negotiate the price below that mark.
Plans call for the initial installation of two curved stone walls, a minimum of 4 feet in height, similar in appearance to rock walls at overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, displaying the university’s name.
The first two markers are targeted for the main entrance of campus, with branded stone-wall signage at other entrances, including at Forest Hills, Old Cullowhee and Little Savannah roads.
“Currently, the two large shoulders of rock along Catamount Gap define the threshold of campus. You pass through the gap, and you know you have arrived at WCU,” said Matt Ketchum, director of facilities planning, design and construction, in a news release last year, when trustees first approved the project’s design. “We hope to duplicate that feeling of arrival when you pull into campus.”
The university has no existing signage at the front entrance to campus, other than state Department of Transportation directional signs and historical placards.
Two major projects are slated for WCU’s Reid Gym. The first, at a cost of $505,000, will create an open activity space to allow for the expansion of the Center for Career and Professional Development. The second, at a price of $519,000, will convert 2,960 square feet of the old bowling alley into two large-sized classrooms.
Joe Walker, associate vice chancellor for facilities management, said he hopes for the classrooms to be ready by fall break.
The final project trustees discussed is an effort to resurface the campus track. Quotes can vary widely depending on what materials are used; though, Byers said he believes it can be done for less than $750,000.
WCU’s track is used for competition but is open to the public during all other times. It was last resurfaced about a decade ago, Byers said.