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Crews Revitalize Franklin Hall Back to Hey-Day Status

A $21 million renovation project is under way to recreate Franklin Hall as the new Media School.

Fri July 03, 2015 - Midwest Edition
Lori Tobias

In its heyday, the English-Gothic style Franklin Hall was the stately structure standing sentinel at the gateway to Indiana University Bloomington campus. Built in 1907, the building initially served as the campus library. But over the years, several additions in different styles turned the building into what Anne Kibbler, director of communications and media relations for The Media School, described as an “absolute rabbit warren.”

“The way it was set up, you couldn’t always get through from one part of the building to another,” she said. “You would go in there and you would be completely disoriented because you would run into basically dead ends.”

But now a $21 million renovation project is under way to recreate Franklin Hall as the new Media School, with the opening to a new class of students set for August 2016. It’s part of the university’s master plan adopted in 2009 to bring the students back in and move the administration out.

“Part of the principles of the master plan were to reinvigorate the original core of campus which this is part of,” said Bob Richardson, senior associate university architect. “A lot of buildings had become more administrative. It lacked student vitality.”

The limestone Franklin Hall is one of the most historic on campus. It’s 130,351-sq.-ft. in size, with work occurring on 84,796-sq.-ft. A large lecture area, President’s Hall, had already been renovated.

The original structure was designed by a Chicago firm and formed an L shape. The addition in 1955 was designed in more of 1950’s vernacular.

Renovation work began in late 2014 with crews from Weddle Brothers Construction, headquartered in Bloomington, completing asbestos removal first.

The building has since been gutted. Crews demolished an old elevator shaft and closed it off.

“From the basement to the attic, more than 40 construction workers are sawing and jackhammering, beginning the slow process of rebuilding the stripped-down interior to create a state-of-the art school,” said Kibbler. “Noise and dust abound. Stacks of debris and new construction materials line the floors.

“The debris is removed systematically via a giant exterior chute that funnels different kinds of materials into separate dumpsters for recycling or disposal. The sorting is part of the requirements to attain silver certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, as designated by the U.S. Green Building Council.”

Plans call for opening up the center portion of the building to two-and-a-half stories with an atrium at its heart and skylights at the top.

“It had been such a large floor plan, by adding the atrium you start to understand where you are,” said Richardson. “It will be a place for public events, the living room or commons of the building.”

A new glass-fronted elevator also will be installed in the commons area.

Building the atrium and adding the skylights will call for the use of large cranes and/or lifts to take the roof off, he said.

“There are many challenges,” Richardson said. “But the basic structure, the bones, are fine. We replaced the tile roof some years ago. Because it had two or more additions, it became very large. You couldn’t really understand how to orient yourself in the building. The stacks in the back were added in the 1950s, and had a different height. They were designed just for library stacks. The floors were all different floor heights and relining them was difficult.”

Contractors couldn’t run the duct work horizontally because the ceilings were so low — only 7 ft. 2 in. (2.2 m) high. So they came up with the solution of building vertical heating/cooling units.

Contractors are working with the original historic woodwork and character, adding the new work in a contemporary way that relates in scale to the original character, Richardson said.

Exterior work includes new windows for the ’50s addition, and restoring windows in other areas. They’ll repoint the masonry and power wash the exterior using standard large lifts.

“Thirteen pages of checklists, 16 months of work — much remains to be done,” said Kibbler. “But we’re now in the position to say that yes, next summer, barring unforeseen problems, we will move into Franklin Hall. It’s starting, finally, to feel real.”

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