Construction delays Landrum move-in

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With the academic year in full swing, Landrum Hall’s renovations remain unfinished while construction efforts continue. Although the building was originally intended to be move-in ready by the start of the semester, unexpected construction complications have postponed Landrum’s completion, displacing over 200 residents. 

This major construction project involves the complete gutting and renovation of the entire building, maintaining its exterior and interior structure with the addition of a two-story atrium entrance and air-conditioning system. These renovations were initially expected to last from spring 2017 to July 2018 but are now tentatively expected to extend into October, according to College of William and Mary officials. 

Residence Life and the construction team were first alerted that Landrum’s construction process was potentially running behind schedule early on in the spring 2018 semester. With this in mind, ResLife warned students of the possible delay prior to room selection. 

“We didn’t want any surprises, and are glad we were able to be transparent about this from the start,” Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Residence Life Maggie Evans said in an email. 

After the delay was confirmed late last spring, Director of Facilities Planning, Design and Construction Jeff Brancheau attempted to work with the contractor, W.M. Jordan, to get the project back on track. However, Brancheau said that these efforts proved to be unsuccessful. 

“I’ve had quite a bit of experience working with historic buildings, and I think this one just had too many unknowns to be able to bring it home on time,” Brancheau said.

“I’ve had quite a bit of experience working with historic buildings, and I think this one just had too many unknowns to be able to bring it home on time,” Brancheau said.

Brancheau identified unexpected complications during construction and the general contractor’s “learning curve” as the primary causes of Landrum’s prolonged renovation. More specifically, during construction, the soil underneath the building was discovered to be unsuitable for use in spite of previous tests indicating otherwise. This forced the construction team to excavate Landrum’s basement more extensively than anticipated. 

Also complicating renovation efforts was the unexpected discovery of dangerously high levels of asbestos within the building’s walls. Efforts to decrease the asbestos levels in Landrum added to the duration and extent of the building’s demolition. The construction team also ran into issues when working on the building’s electrical system, further delaying the residence hall’s completion. 

The cost of these complications and Landrum’s prolonged renovation remains uncertain until both construction and the one-year warranty post-occupancy are completed. According to Brancheau, these complications are not uncommon when renovating historic buildings. 

“Any time we work on these older facilities, we try to do our homework and do some testing, but sometimes things come up that we didn’t find in the analysis at the beginning,” Brancheau said.

ResLife alerted Landrum residents in July that the building would not be completed by the start of the fall semester, setting a tentative prediction that it would be move-in ready by early October. Evans is similarly hopeful that Landrum will be finished by fall break but remains apprehensive. 

“There are simply no guarantees during construction projects,” Evans said in an email. “The contractor has been challenged to find enough labor to work two shifts, and this has potential to impact project completion. We simply don’t know.”

“It still seems like there’s a lot of work to be done,” Ward said. “I’m not holding a grudge, but it seems like a lot to finish in six weeks.”

Landrum Resident Assistant Riley Ward ’21 also expressed doubts that Landrum will be finished by fall break. “It still seems like there’s a lot of work to be done,” Ward said. “I’m not holding a grudge, but it seems like a lot to finish in six weeks.”

According to Brancheau, the only remaining work is completing the building’s electrical work and adding finishing touches to the interior. This puts construction on track to end sometime in October. Brancheau predicts that Landrum will be completed around Halloween. Once Landrum’s renovations have officially been completed, ResLife will coordinate move-in times with displaced students to accommodate their schedules. While students will be responsible for packing their belongings, ResLife will provide a moving staff that will transport these items to Landrum. According to Evans, this process will most likely take place over the span of several days.

Furthermore, ResLife plans to provide displaced Landrum residents with an inconvenience rebate. This is intended to make up for students’ lost time and effort during the mid-year relocation. In the meantime, displaced Landrum residents will remain in their temporary alternative housing locations assigned to them by ResLife over the summer.  Katy Shannon ’21, a displaced Landrum resident temporarily living in the French House — situated in the Randolph Complex — said she is irritated with the delay. 

“It’s just incredibly frustrating because I signed up to be in one dorm, and I was told that that dorm would be done, and it’s not done,” Shannon said. “The French House is great, but it’s not where I wanted to be, and it’s not where I signed up to be.” 

Though Ward is also disappointed with Landrum’s prolonged construction, he and his fellow Landrum RAs are trying to remain optimistic about the situation in the hopes that it will encourage displaced residents to do the same.

 “We’re just trying to keep a good head on our shoulders at this point,” Ward said. “I feel like by us being a little more optimistic … we’re kind of going to have that translate over to our residents and try to get them to make the best of the situation.”