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Contact: Christine Payton April 20, 2007
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
Thanks to a collaborative effort and careful timing, renovation and expansion of UL Lafayette's Burke-Hawthorne Hall could begin as early as May.

Construction could be finished about a year earlier than first planned, to boot.

Burke-Hawthorne Hall houses the departments of Communication and Communicative Disorders, a performing arts theater and KRVS radio station.

The state had set aside about $9.6 million for building improvements and a 31,000-square-foot addition. But bids for construction were higher. So, renovation plans were scaled back a bit. And, UL Lafayette President Dr. Ray Authement proposed that the state and university split about $2.8 million in additional costs.

On Friday, the state's Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget approved his plan. But just contributing extra money wasn't enough to keep the project alive. The state also expedited the process required to issue a contract for the work to the lowest bidder, BEO Contractors of Lafayette.

Bill Crist, director of UL Lafayette's Physical Plant, said cooperation by the state, the Corne-Lemaire Group and BEO Contractors was critical. Here's why:

BEO Contractor's bid was initially to expire on March 22, but BEO extended it until April 22.

The state Office of Facility Planning and Control doesn't usually initiate paperwork needed to accept a bid until the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget gives the green light. Preparing those documents can take weeks. And, in this case, the state couldn't legally accept UL Lafayette's share of the additional funding until the committee approved the financial arrangement.

Without some special attention, Crist said, the Burke-Hawthorne Hall improvements could have stalled when BEO Contractor's bid extension expired.

But the state Office of Facility Planning and Control had agreed to prepare the paperwork ahead of time, in case the committee would give its okay. And UL Lafayette's Business Office was on standby Friday to wire the university's half of the additional funds to state officials in Baton Rouge.

“ It's almost a miracle the way all this came together,” Crist said. “Everybody had to roll their sleeves up and do a lot of work to get to this point. We appreciate everyone's help, especially Jerry Jones, director of the state Office of Facility Planning and Control, and Chris Whitmire, a project manager with that office.”

Bids for the expansion and renovation were opened about two months ago. Since they exceeded the construction budget, architect Paul Lemaire of Corne-Lemaire Group of Lafayette, and representatives of the state, BEO Contractors and university met to find ways to reduce project costs. They managed to trim about $580,000 by making modifications that didn't reduce the size of the 31,000-square-foot addition, such as simplifying a major stairway.

They saved another $250,000 by approaching the construction in a different way, Crist said. This made the total savings about $830,000.

Originally, the plan was to build the addition to Burke-Hawthorne Hall, move departments into it and then renovate the existing building. But instead by giving BEO Contractors access to the entire site from the start, they cut about a quarter of a million dollars in costs and reduced the projected construction time from 30 months to 18 months.

“ Now we've got to build and prepare spaces on campus for everybody in Burke-Hawthorne to move into,” Crist said. “That's going to be a big challenge for the university, but the savings were so dramatic that we felt like it needed to be done.”

Here are some of the improvements that will be made to Burke-Hawthorne Hall, according to Crist:

• The building will be upgraded to meet all city and state building codes. That includes new exit stairs, finishes and utilities, such as electrical wiring.

• A new studio will be built for KRVS, a public radio station on campus.

• The theater will be completely redone and a large backstage area will be constructed.

• The addition will provide expanded classroom, office and lab space for the Communicative Disorders and the Communication departments.

“ Burke-Hawthorne Hall is going to be very nice when the work is done,” Crist said.

BEO Contractors built the Advanced Computer Technology and Research Hall on campus, which opened in January, and Moody Hall, which houses the university's B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration. They are constructing a parking garage on campus, as well.

“ It's wonderful to see this project come to fruition,” said UL Lafayette President Ray Authement. “It's been in the works for many years and will now begin. We thank the state for their cooperation with advancing this project and look forward to its completion.”

Document last revised Friday, April 20, 2007 10:43 AM

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