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New Projects Highlight Summer Construction Schedule

A large crane is shown in front of construction to Scott Shipp Hall

The 135-foot-tall crane towered over post for months. It was used to move steel rebar, among other materials, while an addition to Scott Shipp was being built. - VMI Photo by H. Lockwood McLaughlin.

This summer, work will begin on three construction projects, while work continues or nears completion on a multitude of others.

The largest and most visible of those projects will be the start of work on a $40 million aquatics center, to be built along Main Street adjacent to the Corps Physical Training Facility. There may be a groundbreaking ceremony, but as of mid-May, no date had yet been set.

“The groundbreaking is largely ceremonial,” said Col. Keith Jarvis ’82, director of construction. “We’re planning for [construction] to start sometime in July.”

The project, which will enable the Institute to replace the 51-year-old pool in Clark King Hall, will take about two years to complete. The contractor on the project, Whiting-Turner, is no stranger to VMI, as the company also built the Corps Physical Training Facility and is now working on the renovation of Scott Shipp Hall.

A long-awaited project for the Institute, a pedestrian bridge carrying the VMI-owned Chessie Trail over the South River, is expected to get underway in June or July. The original bridge was washed away by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, and ever since then, trail users have had to detour onto Stuartsburg Road to continue their journey on the 7.2-mile journey from Lexington to Buena Vista.

Plans for a new bridge have now been in the works for several years, but the project had been held up recently by the need to negotiate an easement with Dominion Virginia Power, which owns power lines in the area. Those negotiations were concluded in early May, and the project was then able to be sent out to bid.

Partial funding for the $1.3 million bridge project is coming from a grant from the Eastern Federal Lands Access Program.

            The other project kicking off this summer will be the construction of a parking lot for cadet cars at Lackey Park, off Greenhouse Road in the vicinity of Rockbridge County High School. For the past several years, VMI has rented space for cadet vehicles at a parking lot off U.S. 60 east of Lexington, but once the new parking lot is completed, that rental expense will be eliminated.

            “It’ll be ready in time for the fall of 2021,” said Jarvis. “The idea is to consolidate all cadet cars.”

            Currently, Jarvis said, approximately 40 to 50 cadet cars are parked on North Post, while 150 to 200 are parked at the large lot off U.S. 60. The new, $3.5 million lot will include safety features such as security lighting and a fence. Cadets will travel to and from the lot via an Institute-owned shuttle, Jarvis said.

            Wrapping up this summer will be the construction of a new headquarters for the VMI Post Police. Last summer, the police department’s longtime home, the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters, was demolished to make way for construction of a new, more secure Post Police headquarters on the same site. This work is part of the $33.2 million post infrastructure improvement project.

            Over the winter, the new building rapidly took shape, and it now has electricity and exterior stucco. Windows will be arriving shortly.

“By the end of July or the first week of August, we’ll start moving the police folks into their new building,” said Jarvis.

Also scheduled for a summer completion is the Anderson Drive bridge project, another part of the post infrastructure improvement project. The goal of that project has been to improve the back entrance to VMI via Jordan’s Point by replacing the one-lane bridge over Woods Creek with a two-lane bridge and adding a sidewalk leading from the Marshall Hall parking lot to Gray-Minor Stadium.

Beams for the new bridge were installed in late April, with the expectation that a new bridge deck would be poured before the end of May. Over the summer, a retaining wall will be built on the Gray-Minor side of Anderson Drive, the road will be widened, and a sidewalk put in, so baseball fans and other visitors to the North Post area can walk along Anderson Drive safely.

The completion of the Anderson Drive project is set for Aug. 14.

            Also nearing completion is the $19.2 million renovation of Preston Library. As the spring progressed, passers-by on Main Street could see the exterior of the building become visible again as the sheeting and scaffolding which had encircled it for months was removed.

“Most of the scaffolding has come down,” said Jarvis in mid-May. “It’ll all come down by the end of May.”

The 500 level of the library, where the main entrance is, is on track for completion by the end of June, Jarvis reported. Then, the contractor will begin work on the lower three levels of the building, with completion expected by the end of October.

A concurrent project, the expansion and renovation of Scott Shipp Hall, is also on the schedule. At this point, the new addition to the building has been constructed—so the Institute skyline changed dramatically during the third week of May when the crane that had towered over the construction site for months was removed.

“It’s done its job,” said Jarvis of the crane. “The building has topped out.”

By the end of December, the contractor is expected to turn both the new addition and the 1955 portion of Scott Shipp over to VMI for cadet and faculty use. Work will then commence on the original portion of the building, which dates to 1918, with a completion date of October 2021 anticipated.

 - By Mary Price

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