ALBANY Mohawk Tower was the last of the four towers constructed from renowned architect Edward Durell Stone’s design, but it is the first of the University at Albany’s high-rise dormitories to get a $25 million, top-to-bottom overhaul.
Preliminary work on the reinforced concrete building extending roughly 285 feet into the sky began over the summer and is expected to continue until the fall semester in 2014. The project is aimed at transforming the 40-year-old, 22-floor structure into an energy-efficient building with modern amenities.
The work will bring the 100,000-square-foot, 440-bed behemoth up to modern standards and regulations. This includes renovating the interior spaces, reconditioning the concrete exterior, removing hazardous materials like asbestos, replacing the dated windows and installing a new heating and ventilation system; other work includes replacing the elevators, updating fixtures and rewiring.
“This is a gut renovation,” UAlbany spokesman Karl Luntta said Thursday.
And a renovation that wouldn’t have been easy had the university not added a new residential complex nearby. Liberty Terrace, a 500-bed apartment-style complex overlooking the pond behind Indian Quad, was opened to students this fall and is accommodating some of the incoming freshmen who would have otherwise lived in Mohawk Tower.
“Now with the addition of Liberty Terrace, our target is to renovate about 100 beds a year,” Luntta said.
Kirchhoff-Consigli Construction Management of Pleasant Valley in Dutchess County was awarded the bid in March. The company recently completed a $43.7 million overhaul of the Capitol in downtown Albany.
Stone designed UAlbany’s uptown campus during the early 1960s and construction got under way during the latter part of the decade. Construction on Mohawk Tower began in 1968, as work on much of the rest of the campus was wrapping up.
Mohawk’s design was almost identical to the other towers, aside from an enclosed weather station atop its roof. The tower was finally completed in July 1972 and was slated to receive its first residents that fall.
But a shortage of students wanting housing at the rapidly expanding university left Mohawk vacant. Instead, the building housed the university’s economics, sociology and foundations of education departments until residential demand increased several years later.
Not much has changed inside or outside Mohawk Tower in the four decades that have passed since it first opened. Many of the original steel doors and aluminum windows remain.
Likewise with the interior. A 2009 study commissioned by the university to help preserve its architectural significance found that the tower had been left largely untouched over the years, save for some patches and minor upgrades.
“This is a college dormitory and, as such, is seasonally abused by its occupants,” reads a section of the 458-page study. “The fact that so much original material survives is a testament to the quality and durability of the materials used.”
Other buildings on Indian Quad have already received updates. In 2009, the university completed a $12 million renovation of the quad’s dining area and Tuscarora Hall.
The work on Mohawk Tower is part of a long-range effort to upgrade many of the buildings on campus. UAlbany has also undertaken a $15 million renovation of its landmark fountain at the center of campus, which began earlier this year and will be completed in spring 2014.
“The massive structural enhancements occurring across our campus are in preparation for the next generation of students,” UAlbany President George Philip said in August. “Our over arching goal is to provide an environment that fully supports our students’ success.”