1st phase of Central to cost about $240M

When the drab buildings of Central Campus fall to the wrecking ball later this year, University administrators hope to see a shining "academic village" rise in their place.

University officials have outlined plans for Phase I of the major renovation project, and they will present them in a meeting with the Durham community Tuesday night.

In Phase I, the University will construct 14 buildings and spend approximately $240 million.

The anticipated improvements include thousands of square feet of performance space, a new centralized arts community and a combined Alumni Affairs and Career Center facility.

"We didn't want to create a bedroom suburb, and a lot of thinking from the academic side has been toward that," Provost Peter Lange said. "It creates a community-a village."

Of the 800,000 total square feet projected for construction, approximately 150,000 will be designated for academics. Space will be created for 1,200 beds in apartment-style living, eateries, a bookstore, fitness facilities, a basketball practice facility and a replacement for Uncle Harry's Store, which will be torn down in the renovation process.

Elkus Manfredi, a Boston-based architectural firm, was chosen to draft plans for the Central Campus project in October 2005, but the University does not yet have definitive architectural renderings for the new space. Diagrams showing "footprints"-tentative representations of buildings' positions and sizes-have been drawn and will be shown at Tuesday's meeting.

Executive Vice President Tallman Trask said the $240-million figure is based on a cost estimate of $300 per square foot and includes all projected costs, including infrastructure. The means of funding are not yet solidified.

"There are a number of possible sources, including our money, some private funds and some partnership money," Trask said. "We'll undoubtedly do it as a tax-exempt project. It will be largely debt-financed."

Lange said the University hopes to centralize arts teaching in new spaces along Anderson Street, using the new Nasher Museum of Art as an anchor. Classroom spaces will be shared by several departments with overlapping missions.

Internal and cross-campus dispersion of similar departments and new opportunities for interaction between them are major incentives for the plan, Lange noted.

The Departments of Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Slavic and Eurasian Studies, German, Romance Studies and Asian and African Languages and Literature are slated to move to Central as part of Phase I. The theater studies and dance departments will also be allotted some space.

The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Office of Study Abroad and the Program in Film/Video/Digital will also be moving to new spaces on Central.

John Clum, professor and chair of the Department of Theater Studies, said he is looking forward to the possibility of collaborative projects with other departments for theatrical productions.

His wish list includes a theater with 200 to 300 seats and a single building that would include acting classrooms, dance studios, a set shop, offices and performance spaces. But Clum said he is skeptical about the projected time frame for Phase I.

"Everything about Central is pie-in-the-sky, and yet they say something is going to happen in 2008," he said. "A lot of it depends on how much money they can find. You can't just build a campus for $39.95."

Sheila Curran, executive director of the Career Center, presented her plan for a combined alumni and career space to Duke Student Government March 8.

"It's a wonderful addition for both [the Career Center and Alumni Affairs]," Curran said. "When I first heard we were going to be on Central, I was very worried. Since then, the plans have really changed so it's going to be a vibrant community."

Trask anticipates that Phase I will comprise about 20 percent of the final renovation. Although Phase II is slated to involve faculty housing, he said it is not clear how many phases will be involved, what the final cost will be or when it will be completed.

"You try to think about it as people thought about East and West [Campuses]," Trask said. "Somebody was obviously very thoughtful about East and West, and I hope down the road people will think the same thing about this."

He added that he hopes within a century, the project will create a single unified campus where the distinctions between East, West and Central cease to exist.

Lange said the project will not stop at the boundaries of Central Campus.

"We have spaces we need to do work on, on both East and West-Baldwin, Page, the West Union," he said. "We're going to have to do a more sustained reworking than just renovations to allow current use."

John Schelp, president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association, said some of the animosity regarding Central Campus that generated between the University and the Durham community over the last few years dissipated with Duke's decision to request University-College zoning for Central.

The designation-which East and West Campuses already have-limits any retail to businesses that are integral to the academic mission of the University. It was seen by OWDNA as an essential protection for local businesses from potential tax-exempt on-campus competition.

"Peter Lange has accomplished more [in terms of community relations] in two months than the public relations office was able to do in two years," Schelp said. "But it's still the same set-up, where Duke talks for 45 minutes about what they're going to do and when we ask questions the answers are always, 'We'll get back to you.'"

Nevertheless, Duke officials are optimistic that positive changes will be felt by many generations of future students once the new Central is built. "It's fabulous," Lange said. "It's an incredible chance."


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