Hamilton Smith renovations confirmed for summer 2017

By Melissa Proulx
On April 22, 2014

  • UNH has confirmed that Hamilton Smith will receive a $37 million renovation, to be completed by summer 2017. Pictured above is one of the design plans for the future Ham Smith. Courtesy of UNH

Hamilton Smith is set to undergo a $37 million renovation and this time, we're not joking.

Home to both the English and Philosophy departments and one of the most used buildings on campus, Ham Smith was built in June of 1907 and received it's last major renovation in 1965, when the back portion was added to provide more office and classroom space. Since that time, the building has experienced its fair share of rust, leaks, floods and faults that has made it a prime candidate for a make-over such as this.

The plans, designed by a team of UNH staff, were approved by University System of New Hampshire board of trustees on Friday, April 18, and construction is set to begin as early as fall of 2015, with predictions of work being completed in summer of 2017. 

The plan consists of a 12 percent increase from the current 1,100 seats in the 21 classrooms that make up the building creating new, modern classrooms, office spaces and two new technology labs.

Even with all the new updates, the transformation will maintain much of the building's current historic architecture, including the iconic pillars, the murals from the 1930s that take up the walls of two classrooms and the dome ceiling of the second floor.

"It's classic architecture and location on Main Street and next to UNH's first building, Thompson Hall [is what is such an iconic part of our campus]," UNH Vice President Dick Cannon said.

According to the proposed budget, a little more than $25 million would be spent on construction alone, with $4 million going towards the cost of moving and swing spaces for students and faculty to use during this time, $1.9 million going towards furniture and equipment, a little more than $1.8 million going towards professional services, and $625,000 going to the Project Administrators for permits.

Pamela Diamantis, chair of the board, said in a press release from UNH that the project would not be funded by state money or cause an increase in tuition for students, a fact confirmed by Cannon. The money, instead, would come from an internal fund borrowing system.

"USNH acts as a central banker for the campuses. In essence we borrow the money from ourselves," explained Cannon. "Our unrestricted financial reserves pay it back over five to 20 years, in this case over 20 years to smooth the expense effects."

For many on campus, the building is an important representation on campus. Because of this, the announcement has created great excitement, especially for the many who use the building on a regular basis and have had to deal with outdated conditions of the building.

"I know for many of the faculty in the building, we would see working be done around campus and we would think, 'Why not us?'" Professor Andrew Merton said, who is not only chair of the English Department, but has been teaching at UNH for 42 years. "I think it will be a tremendous boost for moral and students will enjoy coming here."

Though Merton will be retiring this upcoming year, he says that he is excited to come back and see the final results.

UNH President Mark Huddleston is currently away from his office until May and could not be reached for comment at this time.

The board also approved the funds needed for the expansion of the Holloway Commons dining hall and renovation of the outdoor pool, as well as $2.1 million that will be used to purchase the vacant former Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house on Main Street during the Friday meeting, further showing the group's commitment to upholding the standards for buildings on campus.

"These projects all stem from the university's master plan and address important campus needs," Diamantis said in the release. "Each one of these projects plays a part in student recruitment and satisfaction as well as building spirit and pride in the state's flagship public university."

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