The Changing Face of Loyola: Campus Renovations Poise University for Second Century

Extensive renovations revealed the new Thomas Hall Visitor Center.
Extensive renovations revealed the new Thomas Hall Visitor Center.

By Ray Willhoft ’00

Loyola University New Orleans students, faculty, and staff all change each year, but recently something else has been changing as well—the campus. If you haven’t been on Loyola’s campus lately, then you might be surprised at the new sights that greet you. Thanks to the facilities master plan, Loyola’s campus is being transformed in ways that will usher in the university’s second (and greener) century.

What’s Been Done

The facilities master plan, part of the Loyola 2012 strategic plan, was created to address the most pressing needs on campus, as well prepare the university to enter into its second century in 2012.

First impressions do count, and because prospective students’ first encounter with the university is through the Office of Admissions, creating a one-stop-shop visitor center and administrative building, housing the Offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Finance, Student Records, and the Bursar, was essential. Of course, this type of visitor center needed a prime location, so Thomas Hall, located on St. Charles Ave., was an ideal choice.
Thomas Hall was constructed in 1911 after the university received a donation from Louise C. Thomas, who wanted a building dedicated in memory of her husband, Stanley O. Thomas, a cotton broker. Until 2005, Thomas Hall served as the Jesuit residence. It temporarily was transformed into a student residence hall several years ago, but has mostly gone unused in recent years.

The renovation preserved several historical qualities of Thomas Hall, including its stained and leaded glass windows, wood lattice windows, a wooden staircase, the original doors to the front of the building, and the exterior masonry, which features ornamental carved pre-cast books, flora, and Tudor gothic crenellation. The chapel’s original marble floors and painted ceilings were uncovered and restored during the renovation. That space is now the Whitney Presentation Room, thanks to a generous $500,000 gift by Whitney Bank. The Whitney Presentation Room will serve as a gathering space and reception area for prospective Loyola families, but will also be available for other university functions.

In order to meet the building’s new programmatic needs, a discreet 5,100-square-foot addition was constructed on the eastern side of the building, but the design respects the original façade by exposing the historic wall within an open multi-floor atrium.

Not only are the students benefitting from the renovation, but staff members are enjoying their new digs as well.

"Our admissions, financial aid, and retention teams are so grateful for the opportunity to work in Thomas Hall and to promulgate from it the values and virtues of this great university," notes Sal Liberto, vice president for enrollment management. "The university has created a space astonishing in its beauty and functionality. The architects, the university’s Physical Plant team, Information Technology, the planners, contractors, and the myriad carpenters, painters, electricians, and construction workers have brilliantly fitted this edifice for the environmental and technological needs of this century. I congratulate and thank them for what they have delivered to us and many future generations of Loyola students, faculty, and staff."

The renovation also freed space in Marquette Hall, the former home of these offices, which is expected to be used for additional classroom space in the future.

Another campus issue that needed to be addressed was parking, due in part to larger incoming class sizes as well as the university becoming a more residential campus. In order to help alleviate parking on campus, two floors were added to the West Road Garage. In addition, new sidewalks were created leading from the garage to areas across the Peace Quad.

The final issue that needed to be addressed was updating the residence halls. After all, new students need a place to live and socialize, particularly those from out of town who are not yet familiar with New Orleans.

So, all four residence halls, Biever, Buddig, Carrollton, and Cabra, saw significant renovations in their main lobbies, including the construction of new front desks, and new flooring, paint, and furniture.

The Broadway Campus Flourishes

The university’s renovations have not been confined to just the main campus, but have expanded to the Broadway campus, located at Broadway St. and St. Charles Ave., as well.

The College of Law expanded its reach with a complete renovation of the former Dominican Conference Center. The university purchased the building in 2009 and completed its renovation this summer. The College of Law Broadway Building, as it is now known, houses the new Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, which was established by a $1.25 million gift from alumnus Stuart H. Smith, J.D. ’86, as well as the College of Law’s Office of Career Services.

As previously mentioned, all four residence halls received renovations, but Cabra Hall, the only residence hall on the Broadway campus, in particular received some much-needed sprucing up. The exterior of the building was power-washed, and all exterior doors and window louvers received a fresh coat of paint, making it look like an entirely new facility. The building’s interior changes included new carpeting, new paint, and new shower stalls, offering a more modern, clean look to the bathrooms. Finally, new lounge chairs were added to the Cabra Hall lawn, creating a space for residents to catch a few rays in between classes.

What’s Coming Up

Though much improvement has been done to make a significant change to Loyola’s campus, the university has plans to do even more.

Monroe Hall, one of the most important classroom buildings on campus, contains all the science laboratories, nearly half the pooled classrooms, and houses classes for nearly one-third of all undergraduate majors on the main campus. More than 40 percent of all undergraduate instruction occurs in Monroe Hall, thus making it a prime candidate for renovation.

The Monroe Hall renovation project, scheduled to begin early next year, proposes a complete renovation and expansion of the building. When constructed in the late 1960s, the building was zoned and built with the structural capacity and code approval to add two additional floors. Because the campus is landlocked, space for growth is at a premium, and adding two floors to the building will allow expansion without encroaching on the campus’s limited green spaces. The renovation of Monroe Hall is also an opportunity to accommodate a pent-up demand for meeting space that cannot be easily retrofitted into other existing buildings. The project will result in substantial new interior construction, mechanical and safety upgrades, and improved electrical power and lighting systems designed for durability and energy efficiency.

After a very generous $8 million gift from New Orleans Saints Owner Tom Benson in September 2010, there will soon be a new Jesuit Center in the building that previously housed the university’s library. The Tom Benson Jesuit Center will serve as the focal point for spiritual life on Loyola’s campus, addressing all facets of what it means to be a Jesuit and Catholic university. The center is for the entire Loyola community of students, faculty and staff, alumni, and the greater New Orleans community.

At the heart of the center will be an inspiring and inviting chapel to foster the spiritual life of the Loyola community. There will be seminar rooms for lectures and workshops, and offices and workspace. It will house the Jesuit Center, University Ministry, and the new Center for Volunteer and Public Service and Service Learning. This includes LUCAP, Awakening, Ignacio Volunteers, CLC, Compass and Loyola Life, and other related student organizations connected to the office of Mission and Ministry.

The center will also support the Loyola Jesuit community and help attract new Jesuits to Loyola. It will serve the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Catholic community in New Orleans and beyond, but also will be open to people of all faiths.

Holly and Smith have been chosen as the architects for the center, and a planning committee from the Office of Mission and Ministry, led by Vice President Ted Dziak, S.J., are working with the architects in planning its initial design.

Creating a Greener Campus

Sustainability and creating a greener campus are important to Loyola, so several initiatives have been put into place in order to ensure that the university does its part for the planet.

Upon completion, all new and upcoming construction will seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, which contains guidelines that monitor energy output, indoor environmental quality, and water efficiency. Both the newly renovated Thomas Hall and College of Law Broadway Building will seek LEED certification. Additionally, the upcoming renovation of Monroe Hall will also seek LEED designation.

Recycling has become more important than ever, and it is easier than ever to recycle on campus with single stream recycling dumpsters from Allied Waste for select paper, metal, and plastic materials. Bins for recycling aluminum cans, bimetal or tin cans, and plastic bottles are also located outside the entryways of major buildings. These metal items can also be deposited directly in the single stream dumpster.

In addition, each year, the university brings large metal recycling dumpsters to campus, in which aluminum, steel, iron, brass, lead, and copper items are accepted.

Also, Loyola is now assisting with the recycling of old computer and telephone equipment.

There has been a push, particularly by Institutional Advancement, Residential Life, and Human Resources, to convert paper documents into online e-forms, thus reducing paper usage each year. Other departments are developing and implementing policies regarding sustainable operations as well, and Information Technology is moving to new equipment that will make computers on campus more sustainable.

The campus physical plant is consistently improving energy efficiency as they upgrade existing HVAC. Virtually any improvements they do on campus take Loyola to a higher standard of sustainability, and they have adopted a Statement of Environmental Responsibility. Sodexo is doing its part as well and is persistent in improving the sustainable operation of food services and reducing wastage of food.

Loyola is completing a campus-wide inventory of greenhouse gas production, led by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Joelle Underwood, Ph.D. This is the first step in addressing the university’s role in releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

The Loyola Association of Students for Sustainability (LASS) was formed, and students have attended and participated in several national meetings on college campus sustainability, such as the Ignatian Solidarity Network Teach-In led by Associate Chaplain for University Ministry Josh Daley.

Loyola also is participating in the following state and national efforts: Talloires Declaration: University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, American College & University President’s Climate Commitment, and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Louisiana Environmental Leadership Program Policies.

Another green initiative includes the WeCar car sharing partnership with Tulane University which features the use of Toyota hybrids as a way to provide eco-friendly, cost-effective, and convenient transportation solution to students, faculty, and staff of both universities who enroll in the program.
Finally, there are two Electric Vehicle Charging Stations on campus, which complement Loyola’s commitment to sustainability initiatives. Loyola is one of only two universities in the state to offer free electric car charging on its campus, and the stations are available to both the university and surrounding communities.

A dual-charging station, which allows two cars to be charged simultaneously, was installed in the horseshoe on the main campus, while a single charging station was added to the Broadway campus in the Pine Street parking lot.

All of Loyola’ sustainability efforts have not gone unnoticed. According to the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s 2011 College Sustainability Report Card, Loyola was graded an overall score of B-, up from a C- in 2010.

Preaching What We Practice

In keeping with Loyola’s commitment to a greener world, this fall, the university began offering three new interdisciplinary degree majors in the environment: the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a concentration in biological sciences; the Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a concentration in the humanities; and the Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a concentration in social sciences. Students can also pursue a minor in environmental studies.

"Loyola’s commitment to new majors in environmental studies and environmental sciences responds to the growing need for professionals trained in both the policy and the science of the environment," says Jo Ann Cruz, Ph.D., dean of Loyola’s College of Humanities and Natural Sciences. "It is also responsive to the importance of environmental issues for the region. Loyola University, with its nationally recognized scholars in the environmental field, is ideally suited to offer a program that is unique in its rigor and reach across the disciplines."

The interdisciplinary program in the environment provides students the opportunity to engage in a broad and integrated study of the environment from a variety of academic viewpoints. The curriculum also introduces students to current global and regional environmental issues.

“Having this degree program, especially in New Orleans, is vital because it allows our students to understand important environmental issues and to participate in environmental scholarship and hands-on practical experiences that will contribute to this region’s recovery and long-term viability,” says Paul Barnes, Ph.D., the Rev. John H. Mullahy, S.J., Eminent Chair of Environmental Biology and director of the Environment Program.

Towards Loyola’s Second Century

With its new building renovations, commitment to a greener campus and a greener world, and new environmental programs, Loyola University New Orleans is poised to enter into its second century in 2012 with the same zeal and ambition it demonstrated at its chartering nearly 100 years ago. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Wolfpack!

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