In May 2020, the university will spend $20 million on a year-long renovation of LeConte College. The building currently houses the mathematics and statistics departments and the Student Disability Resource Center.
LeConte, built in 1952, has not been completely renovated in about 40 years. According to university architect Derek Gruner, LeConte is the last remaining building in the Gibbes Green area of campus — between the Horseshoe and the Pickens Street bridge — that has not been renovated in the past decade.
"When you have a building like LeConte that has as many classes and as many students in it as that building does, you really just want to close it down one time and do everything and then open it back up," Gruner said.
The renovation, expected to take place through July 2021, will primarily seek to renew and upgrade key elements of the building.
Of the $16 million of the budget dedicated to construction, about half will be used to renew and upgrade the building’s plumbing and electricity systems, Gruner said. They've largely remained the same since 1952. The other half of the construction budget focuses on renovating the bathrooms, installing new elevators, repainting the exterior and restoring the roof.
Students have said they believe LeConte's issues include its old age, broken air-conditioning system, water damage and general uncleanliness.
Tanner Morne, a second-year psychology student who has taken classes in LeConte, said he believes renovations are important due to the repeated problems in the building, especially with water damage.
“I’ve had classes cancelled several times because of water and whatnot, so renovations would definitely help with that,” Morne said.
In addition to leaking and water damage on the third floor during heavy rain, the building also dealt with a pipe burst and a broken air-conditioning system in the past semester.
Madison Pealer, a first-year chemistry student, said she believes renovations are especially important for the instructors in the building who have to be there throughout the day.
“I think the teachers deserve it,” Pealer said. “They’ve been teaching here forever.”
During the 2020 to 2021 academic year, most math and statistics faculty will be moved to the Carolina Coliseum on the west side of campus. Some will move to the James F. Byrnes Building across from the Horseshoe. Gruner says all classes and offices will return to LeConte after the renovations are done.
Additionally, the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Managment will move from the Carolina Coliseum to the Close-Hipp building.
The Student Disability Resource Center is also seeking a new permanent location, Gruner said. While the new location hasn't yet been decided, he said he believes it’s important that an office of such significance be more accessible than LeConte, which is not up to date.
“It’s complicated to try and find a new home for a department that large, so that’s one we’re still working on,” Gruner said.
Gruner said due to state laws concerning historic preservation, the LeConte renovations are not aesthetic ones.
“They want to make sure that we’re renovating the building in a sensitive way and that doesn’t harm the architectural integrity of the building,” Gruner said.
Mitchell Bowser, a first-year biochemistry student, said he believes the building's renovation is important due to the fact that almost all students, regardless of major, must take classes in LeConte at some point.
“A lot of people not liking math already as it is, being in a really crappy building doesn’t help,” Bowser said. “It’s served its purpose for a while, so I’m glad it’s actually getting redone.”
— news writer Marina Catullo contributed to the reporting of this article