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State Building Commission members last week approved $2 million to begin pre-planning process for major rennovation of UTC's now-vacant Lupton Library as well as upgrades to the university's Fine Arts Center. At this point, the estimated $40 million project at this point appears to have a good chance for inclusion next year in Gov. Bill Haslam's proposed 2016/2017 state budget:

Lupton Memorial Library
Opened: 1974
Location: Vine Street/center of UTC campus
Gross square footage: 116,349/Assignable square footage: 75,627
Current use: vacant
Plan: Replace all building systems, convert to a mixed used of classroom and student services. A year-old Lupton Repurposing Committee report recommends relocating the departments of English, Philosophy & Religion, CommunicationModern & Classic Languages and Literatures, History, Integrated Studies and Arts & Sciences Dean to the building. The report also recommended closing in the building's portico to boost the usable square footage to 79,060
Status: State Building Commission approval of $2 million for pre-planning

Fine Arts Center
Opened: 1980
Location: Corner of Vine and Palmetto Streets
Gross square footage: 72,300
Current use: Houses 505-seat Roland W. Hayes Concert Hall; 322-seat Dorothy Hackett Ward Theater; George Ayers Cress Gallery of Art
Plan: Technology upgrade involving sound, lighting, technology systems, possible seating
Status: The State Building Commission-approved $2 million includes pre-planning for the project

 

NASHVILLE — A $40 million plan to create new classroom and office space in UTC's now-vacant Lupton Library and to renovate the university's Fine Arts Center could leap off the drawing board next year.

The plan, UT-Chattanooga's top capital priority, was No. 3 this year on the University of Tennessee system's project list but didn't make the final cut. The top two UT priorities plus several Tennessee Board of Regents projects gobbled up the available money in the state budget that takes effect July 1.

Butch Peccolo, the UT system's chief financial officer, said things look good for getting funding next year for the Lupton project.

"We got our first two projects funded [this year] so it will be the No. 1 project" for the UT system, Peccolo said.

Last week, the State Building Commission gave UTC the nod to spend $2 million in pre-planning the two projects. But full funding for the entire project is not yet a done deal and will depend on revenues for next year's budget.

"This is the early design phase so they can go ahead and have that done, so hopefully — if the Legislature will appropriate the money next year for the full project — they're already done with that and can move forward," Peccolo said.

Chuck Cantrell, UTC's associate vice chancellor for marketing and communication, said the university is "looking at refurbishing that building, reinventing it as a mixed used of classroom and student services."

The modernist-style building, which sits on Vine Street in the heart of the campus, opened in 1974. It is named for Thomas Cartter Lupton and his wife, Margaret Rawlings Lupton. Thomas Lupton, the only child of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. founder John Thomas Lupton, was a philanthropist who launched what's now the Lyndhurst Foundation.

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Staff Photo by Angela Lewis FosterThe Lupton Library will be repurposed by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Earlier this year, the Lupton Library was replaced by a new, $48 million library. But that doesn't mean the building has no life left.

"If you look around our campus, one of the things we're short of is large classrooms," Cantrell said. "We don't have a lot of classrooms that will hold more than 100 students."

In a report last year, a university Lupton Repurposing Committee noted UTC has just three classrooms in the 101- to 200-seat range and five with more than 200 seats.

The committee endorsed moving departments and offices including English; Philosophy & Religion; Communication; Modern & Classic Languages and Literatures; History; Integrated Studies and the Dean of Arts & Sciences' office to a revamped Lupton.

"The large, open expanses in the old library give us the opportunity to look at perhaps adding in some larger classrooms and also some specialized classrooms that might need some particular equipment that could be fitted into the building," Cantrell said.

"You're not quite starting from scratch, but you can build around the technology needs," he added. "We haven't nailed down what goes in there."

Officials also are looking at relocating the Disability Resources Center there, Cantrell said. "At the same time, we've been growing. There are other student services that we might see relocate into that facility."

The Fine Arts Center, located at the corner of Vine and Palmetto streets, opened in 1980. It houses the 505-seat Roland W. Hayes Concert Hall, the 322-seat Dorothy Hackett Ward Theater and the George Ayers Cress Gallery of Art.

"We're going to be looking at some renovations to some of our staging areas, maybe some new lighting and electrical," Cantrell said. "It's an older building and it needs some upgrading to facilitate and make sure our students are learning on the most up-to-date systems in terms of sound, lighting, electrical, those types of things."

Renovations might include some reorganization of hall seating and possibly classrooms, "but it's mostly technology and equipment upgrade," he said.

Peccolo said the pre-planning process is aimed at pinning down the projects' costs and scope, including choosing a designer and further discussions with departments over needs.

The Lupton Library has 116,349 gross square feet of space, but the repurposing committee said the "assignable" square footage — area available for occupants to actually use — is 75,627. The rest is for building service, circulation, mechanical, and structural areas. Including the library's portico would bring the assignable space to 79,060 square feet.

Cantrell said the renovated building will retain the Lupton name and will likely be called Lupton Hall.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, chairman of Hamilton County's state legislative delegation, and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he supports the project.

A 1972 UTC alumnus, Gardenhire said he's had several discussions with Chancellor Steven Angle about the Lupton Library and what to do with it.

"I'm tickled to death they're getting this additional phase of money for the library," Gardenhire said of the $2 million pre-planning funds approved last week. "It's a beautiful building."

Gardenhire said he hopes the money for the actual makeover will be there. He noted the local seven-member delegation has ample representation on the House and Senate finance committees, which are responsible for working on the state budget that will be submitted by Gov. Bill Haslam.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, is the No. 2 official in the chamber and serves on the House Finance Committee. Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, is the Senate speaker pro tempore and vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He's a 1983 UTC alumnus.

Also serving on House Finance Committee are Reps. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, and Patsy Hazelwood, R-Signal Mountain.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

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