WSU moving forward with Ablah 24-hour study room expansion, select referendum projects



Student Marcus Ang studies at the 24-hour Ablah Library study room.

Construction on Woolsey Hall, Wichita State’s $50 million business building, is slated to begin in summer 2020, but the university is also moving forward with several other projects included in last semester’s failed student-fee referendum. 

Projects include a joint clinical psychology and play therapy lab facility, a biology lab remodel in Hubbard Hall, and an expanded 24-hour study space in Ablah Library.

Students narrowly rejected a proposal last semester that would have raised fees by $6 a credit hour to fund $20 million of Woolsey Hall and $18.6 million of other infrastructure priorities.

After the referendum, university officials announced that WSU would start construction on the new business building by cutting and reallocating $1.5 million of university funds annually for a bond payment of at least 25 years.

Executive Director of Facilities Planning Emily Patterson said WSU will use state rehabilitation and repair money and deferred maintenance funds to complete other select infrastructure priorities.

Ablah Library’s 24-hour study space is currently one room without restroom access. The expanded space will take up the entire library lobby and include restrooms, Patterson said.

She said the study room project was put out to bid last week and awarded to Van Asdale Construction on a $148,000 contract. Five other construction firms submitted bids, she said. 

The expansion was listed as a $75,000 project in the referendum proposal, but Patterson said the awarded contract was within budget.

“The project was refined and expanded over what was originally described during the referendum,” Patterson said. “It was decided to enlarge the existing study room into the adjacent large library vestibule to provide more 24-hour study space. The scope change increased the project cost.” 

The joint clinical psychology and play therapy lab will take over space vacated in Ahlberg Hall when Student Health Services relocates to the new YMCA and wellness center early next year.

In the lead-up to the referendum, concerns were raised that deficiencies in existing lab space could put program accreditation at risk. Patterson said ensuring the programs’ accreditation is a top priority.

“There are going to be things programmatically that they’re going to have to come together and figure out,” she said. “We’re working through all that now. We’re in the planning phases of that project.”

The Hubbard Hall project will convert two existing biology labs into three state-of-the-art lab spaces, Patterson said. She said the project will be completed next summer.

This year, WSU is also moving forward with the phase-one renovation of Henrion Hall, the building that houses the university’s ceramics studio.

Phase one has been in the works for at least a year, Patterson said. The more expansive $2 million renovation outlined in the referendum proposal is considered phase two.

Phase one includes the installation of two dust collection systems to minimize the risk of students breathing in dangerous silica dust.

“This one is about 6,000 square feet of space where students typically work with silica dust, so it’s to control and contain the dust and collect it so that it’s a safer environment to work in,” Patterson said.

“We are installing dust collection systems, and while we are doing that, we’re going to upgrade the lighting and the HVAC in those areas.”

She said phase two of the renovation is a much bigger project than WSU’s rehabilitation and repair money can support.

“The next phase involves a full system replacement for the building, so it’s something we wouldn’t be able to do with that rehabilitation and repair money, because it’s just too big of a project,” Patterson said.