Historic GRU buildings undergo $1.2 million in renovations

It’s the price of progress.

 

Georgia Regents University is in the midst of $1.2 million in renovation work at two historic buildings at the former Augusta State University campus as part of a plan to consolidate its disparate campuses onto one system.

About $100,000 of that money is going toward a renovation and new furnishings for the Maxwell Alumni House at 2339 McDowell St. Workers are refinishing floors and painting the interior walls of the 100-year-old building, which will continue to be used for GRU alumni affairs, according to university spokeswoman Christen Carter.

Carter said GRU Government Affairs will take up space on the second floor.

Across Katherine Street is where most of the money is being spent. The older and larger Boykin Wright house is undergoing a major renovation to make room for administrative offices for Provost Gretchen B. Caughman and for Carol Rychly, the vice president for academic and faculty affairs.

Caughman currently has an office on the Health Sciences campus downtown, while Rychly has an office in Bellevue Hall on the Summerville campus. Carter said the purpose is to consolidate administration for academic and student affairs under one roof.

The renovation work, which includes demolition and removal of asbestos and installing a new fire sprinkler system and a new heating and air-conditioning system ,is estimated to cost $833,000, according to documents obtained through an open records request.

“Many of the systems in the building, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical have never been updated,” Carter said. “Over the years Augusta State University did a good job of preserving this resource but was unable to attain the necessary funding to perform the required upgrades to the building.”

The two-story home of former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Boykin Wright was constructed in 1896, according to county records. It was given to the university by his daughter, Marguerite Wright Hillman, according to university history.

While the Maxwell house project is almost finished, the Boykin Wright renovation has just begun. Carter said the projected timeline for the completion of that project is in July.

GRU plans to spend about $276,000 on new furnishings when the work is complete.

According to the documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, chairs alone for the new offices will cost more than $88,000, with the average cost per chair exceeding $1,000. A few cost more than twice that amount.

Furnishings for Caughman’s office on the second floor are estimated at more than $28,000, and about $17,000 is estimated for Rychly’s. Two of the conference rooms are each set to cost more than $60,000, which is more than the $50,000 allotted for all new furnishings at the Maxwell House.

Desks will cost about $33,000. Throw in a $5,000 sofa, a $7,000 rug and about $30,000 for custom drapes and the numbers start to add up.

Carter said the university does keep a warehouse of surplus furniture that can be used for new office spaces, but the pickings are slim.

“It’s really piecemeal,” she said. “It’s not like you can go in there and find a table with a complete set of matching chairs.”

Carter said most of the renovations are required to bring the building up to current code standards. Furnishings are selected to match the Boykin Wright building’s age and history.

“There will be some minor upgrades to the finishes such as painting and new floor coverings to match the historic character of the building,” she said.

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