• Lillie Burke

Building boom continues

For the first time in three years, Belmont officials have no new buildings to open at the beginning of the school year.

But there’s not even a temporary lull in the sounds of blasting and construction. Building continues on the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center, which will house the College of Law, and an as yet unnamed residence hall, both with underground parking garages and both scheduled to open this time next year.

These major projects affect traffic on 15th Avenue, and there’s more construction — without traffic disruption — with renovations to the sanctuary of Belmont Heights Baptist Church on Belmont Boulevard. The renovations will create a classical concert venue.

It won’t end there, however, as University officials discussions are already under way about potential new building sites and the needs of various departments.

New Residence Apartments

While the floor plan is similar in some ways to suite-style Kennedy and Thrailkill halls, the new residential building will instead house four-bedroom apartments. The apartments will be a hybrid between a residence hall and an apartment building, said assistant Residence Life director Rebekah Stewart.

“Each unit will have individual bedrooms, a common area, and a small kitchen area,” she said. “There will be a shared hallway, a lobby and a front desk like a regular residence hall.”

Phase one of the “sophomore apartments,” which will contain 300 beds, is projected to be ready for students by next fall.

By blasting in the summer three times a day instead of two, campus blasting should be completed by the end of September, said Steve Lasley, vice president of finance and operations.

The new building will also have a 500-car parking garage ready by next fall, too. The garage will technically have a green roof, even though none of its parking spots will be above ground.

“You’ll think it’s a lawn, but it’s really a parking garage,” he said.

The second phase of the building will house another 200 students when finished.

Law School

Construction on the Baskin Center, now entering its 10th month of construction, is on schedule, Lasley said.

The Baskin Center, which will house Belmont’s new law school and its library and will have a 500-space underground parking garage, is projected to be ready for classes by July 2012. Construction on the garage will continue, but Lasley said he is confident the building will top out by early winter.November or December.

The law school and the newly arrived charter class will operate this year in the former physical therapy building at Delmar and 15th avenues. This building will meet the law school’s needs for this school year, College of Law Dean Jeff Kinsler said.

Belmont Heights Baptist Church

Major renovations started this summer in the sanctuary of Belmont Heights Baptist Church. The university-owned property, which is leased to the church for a minimal fee, is being retooled as a concert venue. The renovations should be complete by May 2012.

Amid the construction, on Aug. 1 the sanctuary played host to a performance by Belmont professor and pianist, Dr. Bob Marler.

“It’s exciting to see this space begin its transformation into an exceptional venue for large scale choral and instrumental concerts,” Belmont president Dr. Bob Fisher said at the event. “Next summer this beautifully designed concert hall will become home to Belmont’s talented faculty and student musicians while also adding another outstanding performance site to Music City.”

The Future

As for future building plans, nothing is officially in the works, Lasley said. “We’re just kind of dreaming,” he said. “We have no building right now.”

Three potential major building sites, including sites near 15th and Wedgewood avenues and at the remaining tennis courts, are considered usable “without impacting current green space,” Lasley said.

During the summer, discussions have occurred between university officials and Dr. Bryce Sullivan, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and associate deans and department heads in CAS about current needs and potential use of a new facility. According to Lasley, such discussions happen about every two or three years.

“There’s no decision right now, but they have a shot,” Lasley said.

The majority of CAS is currently housed in the Hitch and Wheeler buildings, two of the oldest academic buildings on campus.

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