The College of William and Mary is moving forward with a multi-million dollar and multi-year plan to renovate buildings on the Historic Campus, including the Sir Christopher Wren Building and the President’s House.
“This amendment provides $4.9 million GF and $1.3 million NGF the first year to support roof repairs, address water infiltration issues, and ongoing humidity control issues for the historic buildings at William and Mary. This brings total funding to $12.9 million GF and $1.3 million NGF for this purpose,” the proposed amendment to the Virginia state budget reads.
Construction on the Wren Building will begin after the 2023-2024 academic year concludes in order to limit disruption to existing classrooms and offices.
According to a press release from the College published on Aug. 8, the renovations are part of the university’s preparations for the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026, which is expected to be a major tourist draw for Williamsburg. According to the press release, a 2022 Colonial Williamsburg assessment highlighted need for the renovations.
“An assessment conducted last year by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation identified issues vital to the structural integrity of both historic buildings,” the release reads.
Since the Virginia state legislature controls some of the College’s budget, funding for the renovation comes from budget requests and amendments.
“The university originally submitted a budget request of $14.2 million for the full cost of the preservation work,” Chief Communications Officer Brian Whitson wrote in an email to The Flat Hat. “$8 million was included in the Governor’s proposed amendments to the 2022-2024 biennial budget in December, and both the House and Senate provided an additional $4.9-6.2M funding in their committee reports in February.”
However, the additional funding is held up in still-unresolved budget negotiations in Richmond. In a call with The Flat Hat on Aug. 14, State Sen. Tommy Norment’s Press Secretary Jeff Ryer said that it is still too early to tell when the budget amendments will be passed.
Norment is a sponsor of the budget amendment, which provides funding for the renovations. Norment was also appointed as a member of the College’s board of visitors by Governor Glenn Youngkin in late June. However, due to a Code of Virginia statue preventing members of the Virginia General Assembly from serving on boards, commissions and councils administered by the executive branch, Norment will only start his term in January 2024.
“The budget negotiations have gone on much longer than anyone could have anticipated,” Ryer said.
Nevertheless, the College is optimistic that the negotiations will be resolved soon.
“We anticipate resolution on the state budget in the coming weeks at which point we will know the level of state support for the historic campus preservation project,” Whitson wrote.
The College is also optimistic that the renovations will not negatively impact classes or offices in the Wren Building.
“Work at the Wren Building won’t begin until after the academic year, so we’ll be working on those details in the planning stage and work closely with anyone impacted once preservation work begins,” Whitson wrote.
The renovations have been a key priority of the administration and other College leaders in the past year. In the board of visitors’ April General Assembly Report pre-read, renovations were listed as a key legislative priority for the College. Rector Charles E. Poston J.D. ’74, P ’02, ’06 formed a committee in January 2023 which was charged with analyzing the preservation and safety on William and Mary’s Historic Campus, according to Poston’s letter to the members of the committee on January 12.
Owen Williams ’23, a member of the committee, told The Flat Hat that the group has been meeting since the Spring 2023 semester and as the renovations continue to be a top priority for the College.
“This historic preservation initiative is a desperately needed project to provide updates to the safety, security and health and vitality of our historic campus buildings, which are the centerpiece of our ancient campus.”
“This is truly an exciting project for our university community,” Williams wrote in an email to The Flat Hat. “As we approach 2026 and the nation’s 250th anniversary, Williamsburg and William & Mary are expected to play a significant role in our national celebrations as the birthplace of American democracy. This historic preservation initiative is a desperately needed project to provide updates to the safety, security and health and vitality of our historic campus buildings, which are the centerpiece of our ancient campus.”