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Sunday, June 24,2012

Long-awaited old Baker-RTV makeover finally underway

By David DeWitt
Photo Credits: Provided by Ohio University.
Photo Caption: An artist rendering of what will be the Schoonover Center for Communication.

The new home of the Ohio University Scripps College of Communication is finally moving from conception to reality. The project has been delayed for several years as the state of Ohio put its capital improvements budget on hiatus during difficult budget times.

Earlier this year, Gov. John Kasich announced that the state capital budget was recovering, and OU President Roderick McDavis made the College of Communication building the university's top construction priority.

The new building will house all five of the college's departments in a complete renovation of the old Baker student center on East Union Street across from the College Green. It will be joined with the next-door R-TV Building. Old Baker has been sitting vacant since 2007 when the new Baker Center opened.

This summer, however, construction crews have begun work on the outer facade of the new communications facility.

College of Communication Interim Dean Scott Titsworth said Friday that the college currently has five different schools scattered in five separate locations on campus.

"Each school has a spot on campus and then there are sub-locations, so we're very geographically dispersed across campus despite the fact that we only have five programs," he said. "So when our new building is completed, it will bring all five of those schools under one roof."

The schools include the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, the J.W. McClure School of Information and Telecommunication Systems, the School of Communication Studies, the School of Media Arts and Sciences, and the School of Visual Communication.

The timeline for the renovation includes a two-phase move-in, during which the first administrative offices will transfer to the building. They will be followed by the schools themselves, once all of the classrooms are complete. That process is slated to begin in fall 2013.

Having every college at the same site will help give students the complete, multi-dimensional and dynamic education that people going into the media industry need, Titsworth said.

"You have to not only learn journalism now but you have to learn video production, audio production and all the other things that go along with multimedia journalism," he said. "Because of our schools being separated right now, it's harder to give our students opportunities to cross-train."

From an academic standpoint, Titsworth said, the college is excited to get that type of co-habitation going between the schools. That way, he said, students from the different schools can coordinate and work together on projects more easily.

"Any media person now has to be trained in all of the specialties," he said. "They may get hired into what was traditionally thought of as just a television station but find they spend a lot of their time writing for the web, or be hired by a newspaper and have to shoot video and edit video."

The facilities themselves will feature connections between old Baker Center and the R-TV Building on each floor. So almost all of the labs will be housed in the same geographical footprint, Titsworth said.

"We're excited about designing spaces that are very flexible and capitalize on wireless Internet and different ways to interact with information," he said. "One of the trends that we see in higher education is a lot less of an emphasis on lecturing and a lot more emphasis on teachers helping students locate, find and evaluate information that's on the web. So we're trying to make our classrooms built around that notion that it's a portal to the world, and the job of the teachers and the students is to find out how to go out and understand and evaluate that world."

On the architectural end, Richard Shultz, OU's resident architect and director of implementation, said Friday that the contractor arrived on site two weeks ago, with the move-in slated for August 2013.

The building will be called the Schoonover Center for Communication in honor of a gift of $7.5 million from alumnus Steven L. Schoonover and his wife, Barbara.

This summer is going to feature demolition work that will take about two months, he said

"We're taking out the front of the building to put in a new entrance that will be a grade," he said. "So instead of all those stairs, the building will be accessible from the sidewalk level, and you'll enter into a new lobby and lounge and atrium."

On the alley side of the building, crews will tear off of the wall and put in an addition, complete with the portals to the R-TV building. Also, he said, crews will tear the roof away from the old Baker Center Ballroom and start another story there.

He said it will be a total building renovation; this past winter crews did a total demolition, removing all of the walls from the inside.

"It's just the structural skeleton," he said. "Everything will be new – new walls, new windows, new heating and cooling, new fire alarms, new sprinkler system."

As for the design, the Schoonover Center will be slightly more contemporary than some other buildings on campus but will retain much of the classic OU look. Titsworth compared the inside look to that of Grover Center.

He added that the college will move the Scripps School of Journalism from its building on College Green, but will retain that building as well.

Each school will be housed in a different quadrant of the building, but some of those quadrants will be located on the same floors, so intermingling will occur in the building.

"Clearly, right now we're a College of Communication that has a national, if not international, reputation for the quality of the program," Titsworth said. "There's no question in my mind that bringing our people together so they can work closer together is something that will make us stronger on a foundational level as a college."

Citing the college's reputation as world-class is one thing, Titsworth said, but being able to buttress that with a new state-of-the-art facility is quite another.

"I think it adds a lot of credibility to the quality of the college that we are; it really underscores it," he said.


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What is the plan for the current Scripps' building/the Carengie Library?