Coming to a theater near you!

General Assembly bill to fund new music building, PBK renovation

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March 17, 2016

8:41 AM

A bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly March 11 is set to fund construction of a new music building and renovation of Phi Beta Kappa Hall at the College of William and Mary, exceeding faculty and administrative expectations for the 2016 General Assembly session.

Nearly two months after being introduced, House Bill 1344, identical to Senate Bill 731, was passed last Friday, authorizing capital projects on public college campuses around the Commonwealth, including projects at the College. If signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, the bill will fund phases one and two of the College’s proposed Arts Quarter.

Board of Visitors member Lisa Roday said she regards the passed bill as a wonderful affirmation of the efforts of all involved.

“These new facilities will change the opportunities available to our students,” Roday said. “Practice facilities, sound-proof rooms, light filled spaces, performance stages, recording capabilities — all of these improvements will enhance the arts experiences for all of us.”

These new facilities will change the opportunities available to our students. Practice facilities, sound-proof rooms, light filled spaces, performance stages, recording capabilities — all of these improvements will enhance the arts experiences for all of us. — Lisa Roday

Phase one of the Fine and Performing Arts Complex will fund a new $55.5 million, 75,000 square-foot music facility which includes a 125 seat recital hall, classrooms, practice rooms and studios, according to the College’s 2016-2022 capital plan. Phase Two of the project will renovate Phi Beta Kappa Hall and its theatre with a new box office, foyer and rehearsal space at a projected cost of $64.3 million.

The College’s 2016 General Assembly Session priority was more modest, seeking only funding for phase one. As the governor only recommended funding for additional STEM facilities, the outcome of the request for funding was uncertain.

The original House and Senate bills presented Jan. 21 failed to meet the College’s recommendations, remaining silent on the proposed Arts Quarter. After going through the Committee on Appropriations in the House and the Committee on Finance in the Senate in mid-February, the bills were changed, aligning with the College’s priority — planning funds for a new music facility.

Because the House and Senate passed different versions of the bill, a Joint Conference Committee was convened. The version of the bill that emerged not only retains planning money for phase one, but finances the entire construction of a new music building and renovation of PBK. Both the House and Senate passed the reconciled version last Friday, retaining the funding additions for the College.

According to Professor of Musicology Katherine Preston, the last time Ewell Hall was renovated was 1989, right before she began teaching at the College.

“We have done small stopgap improvements — dividing an office in two in order to create more space, carving out an office from a closet,” Preston said.

For the caliber of the music department and the roughly quarter of students of the College it serves, Preston said, Ewell is embarrassingly inadequate. Preston said she even knows of potential students who have chosen not to attend the College because of the poor quality of the music facilities.

Similarly, Chair of Theatre, Speech, and Dance Christopher Owens said there has been the same allocation of space and storage in PBK since the last time it was rebuilt — after a fire in 1957.

“We are bursting at the seams for classroom space and I have had to cancel classes that could have filled easily here due to lack of space in which to have them,” Owens said.

According to Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Samuel Jones ’75, M.B.A. ’80, the General Assembly’s action is timely and cost effective: The consolidation of planning and construction of phases one and two of the proposed Arts Quarter considerably shortens the time frame and reduces overall costs of the project.

We are bursting at the seams for classroom space and I have had to cancel classes that could have filled easily here due to lack of space in which to have them. — Christopher Owens

HB 1344 also provides planned funding for the fourth Integrated Science Center and construction of the West Utilities Plant.

Governor McAuliffe has thirty days to review and sign the General Assembly bill.

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Emily Martell
  • Emily Martell

Chief Staff Writer Emily Martell '19 is a prospective economics major from Norfolk, VA. She formerly served as Associate News Editor.