The University of North Alabama (UNA) in Florence began the demolition of historic LaGrange Hall in the third full week of September, according to Flor-Ala, the college's student newspaper.
Discussions about what to do with the LaGrange site after it is cleared initially focused on the possibility of building new dorms for the Delores and Weldon Cole Honors College. However, due to the honors college's recent occupancy of Colby Hall and UNA's continued record-breaking enrollments for all students, the university felt that there was a more proper use of the space.
"A single-purpose dorm was once part of the discussion, [but] I believe the new building will be open to all students and won't be focused on a single student population," explained Vincent Brewton, dean of the honors college.
Construction of the new housing is expected to cost about $23.9 million, the UNA board of trustees said in a statement, adding that the project will serve to better accommodate the university's enrollment of more than 10,000 students.
The LaGrange dormitory has a long history, with its construction dating back to when UNA was still known as Florence State College. The building's name was meant to honor LaGrange College, a Methodist-founded higher education institution that made its way to Florence in 1854.
Due to its age, it comes as no surprise that the building's many years of service would require the university to contract to have a new structure erected in its place.
Flor-Ala reported that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the work. Due to concerns about toxic mold, UNA reconsidered remodeling and instead decided to tear down the building down in favor of new construction.
The demolition and construction of the new dorms will not be done immediately, Flor-Ala noted, leading to possible inconveniences for students and faculty moving across the UNA campus.
Fences have been put up around the perimeter of LaGrange and the skybridge, which connects the other dormitories to the rest of campus. Students who used the skybridge as their primary route to class or other campus buildings have had to find alternate routes, potentially causing delays.
"I usually take the bridge when I come back to the dorms after work, but now I have to walk all the way around," Bonnie McNeese, a first-year student at UNA, told Flor-Ala.
To make students aware of other options to navigate campus without the skybridge, UNA's Department of Facilities, Administration and Planning has posted signs that emphasize the use of routes through the parking deck, across the Pine Street bridge and via Circular Road.
Despite the headaches associated with the demolition, the university community is solidly in favor of more housing and the growth this addition will provide for UNA.
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