|New Life, New Home
Centre renovates old warehouse for management facility employees
(This story written by Emily Toadvine recently appeared in the Danville Advocate-Messenger and is re-printed with the Advocate's permission.)
RELEASED: Nov. 14, 2002
DANVILLE, KYGiven a shoestring budget, Centre College's facilities management department can lace up and still have a little to trip over.
Facilities management, which encompasses paint, electric, plumbing, carpentry, grounds and custodial crews, received $130,000 to renovate the old Central Wholesale warehouse on Harding Street. By cutting a few corners and doing the work themselves, they ended the job with $25 to spare, says Jerry Meyer, director of Facilities Management.
"Everything was driven by what we could afford," Meyer says of the renovation that was completed in spring of 2000.
After years of remodeling other buildings on campus, there was an impressive stockpile of items from which to choose.
"It was kind of like cleaning out a garage," Meyer says.
For instance, the building's antique front door came from a house that had been demolished decades earlier.
The door has a yellow and blue stained glass pattern in the center with clear, raised bubbles of glass around the sides. Refinishing the wood revealed light-colored mahogany. Wayne King, assistant director of maintenance, estimated that the door is between 80 and 120 years old. It had been on the corner of the Russell House that sat on the corner of Maple and Walnut streets 50 years ago.
"It was laying in the basement of Breck Hall," Meyer says, noting that the carpentry crew built sidelights to complement the door.
The 70-year-old tables in the conference room came from the old Carnegie Library. Chairs around the table were reaped from refurbishing of administrative offices during the 1990s. It was logical that the people who stored this furniture would find ways to use it again, Meyer says.
"Since we're the people that move furniture, we took the old stuff and kept it."
In the same room, employees used their know-how to combine two printer tables to make a cabinet for a television and videocassette recorder that are used for training.
Meyer, who has worked in the department for 14 years, says the crews' first home was in the old barracks at the end of the football field. The barracks were built during World War II and were cramped quarters for the maintenance crew. Eventually, they moved to Perryville Street. They had more room, but experienced terrible problems with drainage and an inadequate septic system.
Meyer had his eye on the old warehouse since Centre College bought it around 1992. The former grocery wholesale business, which was built in 1910, was used for storage, but Meyer saw its potential as headquarters for facilities management.
He pleaded his case a few years ago and an architect drew up some plans. The drawings came back in 1994 with a price tag of $325,000 and the plans began to gather dust. Meyer convinced Centre president John Roush that they could do the work for $130,000. That was the amount the college received from the sale of the facility management's old home on Perryville Street.
Roush gave the project the green light in the fall of 1999, and Meyer became the architect. Meyer said they overcame one of the biggest hurdles when the state classified the project as a remodeling job that could be governed by local building codes. Otherwise, the job would have been under the scrutiny of state engineers, he says.
"I would have had to come up with engineering drawings that would have had to have been stamped by engineers," he says.
In starting, Meyer knew that the defining structures were the columns and beams of the old warehouse and two circular windows on the west side. Partly as a cost-cutting measure and partly to display the beams and 8-by-8-inch posts, he eliminated most of the drywall and a second floor.
"We decided to leave an open look, keeping it kind of warehousy," says Meyer, who uses one of the overhead beams in his office to display hats.
One of the reminders of the building's past is a huge pulley that was used when the building originally functioned as a hemp factory. The pulley was converted into a coffee table that is located in a small sitting area.
"We cleaned it up a little and bought a glass top," Meyer said.
One attractive feature they added was little roofs over the individual offices. A copper edging gives the illusion that the roofs are copper, but they are red steel.
"It was 20 percent of the cost of copper. A lot of people come in and say 'Copper roofs, that's really neat.' "
Another chore was to overcome the dark interior that was litd by four, bare light bulbs hanging from wires. They unbricked several windows and created windows with ledges wide enough for displaying plants and other items.
For the circular windows, Stephen Powell, a world-renowned glass blower and instructor at the college, created two swirls of color. Meyer called it payback time.
"We did a lot of work for Steve," Meyer says of the renovated Jones Visual Arts Center on campus. On sunny days, one of the windows creates a rainbow of colors on the wall near the front door.
One of the biggest savings was having the crews do the work themselves. Meyer says these groups completed 85 percent of the work on the building.
"It's a labor of love and a testimony to the quality of their work," he says.
Although a lot of money was saved by recycling materials, some items were bought. The ash wood flooring came from Monticello. Scott Messer, assistant director of trades, came up with the idea of using walnut at the thresholds to offices.
In addition to the offices, the employees have a break room that is equipped with a ping-pong table and pool table. Discarded dorm room furniture and old tables from "The Pit," a former student break area, fill the rest of the break room. Tile for the floor was left over from when Cowan Dining Hall was built.
"It was part of the original construction and we've had it stored for 30 years," Meyer says.
An adjoining shower room holds lockers from the football locker room and toilets and sinks taken from various places on campus.
Other fixtures came from various remodeling projects. Ceiling fans came from Fox Hall. About 17 doors to the offices were donated by the J.T. Goggans construction company. Goggans obtained them while remodeling a doctor's office.
Moving into the building was not only an improvement in terms of space, but gave the crews a three-bay loading dock. It was the first time they had a place to back in a tractor-trailer and unload it.
Having a new home for the past two years has made a big difference to the employees who work there, Meyer says.
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