Workers have completed major construction on a new $37 million library at UTC, a building designed to anchor what will become the new center of campus.
As is tradition, crews added one last touch to the building's roof: a small Christmas tree and an American flag.
The library and attached classrooms, along with a new pedestrian mall, are a key element in the University's 15,000-student future, said Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor of University Relations.
"What we're looking at is creating the new academic heart for our campus," Cantrell said.
As UTC enters its 10th consecutive year of record enrollment, there's no time to pause for breath. Work will continue in the area for years, with construction crews moving to create a new quad centered on what was once Chamberlain Field.
"It's creating a major new pedestrian throughfare through the campus," he said.
The multi-purpose library will serve as much more than a storage site for books when it is fully completed next year, said Rhea Studer, Chattanooga-based business development officer for Rentenbach Construction.
Interior crews are already preparing to install a cafe, computer labs and study rooms in the new building. About 150 computers will allow students to do their reading online, if they prefer.
Areas for tutoring, a climate-controlled storage area for special collections and a grand reading room will top off the 200,000-square-foot building.
"The grand reading room is designed as an old-fashioned reading room with Queen Anne furniture, wood finish wall paneling with a quiet old-time feel," Studer said. "This is really kind of a milestone."
Crews have also begun building the library's 15,000-square-foot auditorium, and will soon start on an attached academic building with lecture space for up to 200 students, Studer said.
"The Library's plaza will flow directly into the pedestrian mall," she added.
The old Lupton Library located to the east will be renovated to hold large, lecture-style classrooms as well as research space, said Cantrell.
While the new library will open in 2013, continuing work on the pedestrian mall will mean that parts of the campus will remain a hard hat area until fall of 2014, he said. If enrollment keeps growing, UTC could be under construction for years to come.
"Being a hard hat zone is not new for our campus," he said. "The excitement and vibrancy that's happening in Chattanooga is spilling over onto UTC."