TSU Quad project starts

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 5, 2003

The Messenger

The best of the past and the future come together Wednesday as Troy State University breaks ground on its Quad Renovation Project.

The vision has been in place for more than three years. It began when Earl Johnson, an active TSU alumni and mayor of Andalusia, began asking about a visible icon for the university. "(He) started a conversation about having something at Troy State that would be as visible as Denny Chimes at Alabama or Samford Hall at Auburn," said Dr. Jean Laliberte, vice president for institutional advancement at the university.

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Shortly after that seed was planted, Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford made a surprising discovery at City Hall.

"In an attic in a desk drawer at City Hall, Mayor Lunsford found a drawing of the original design for the Quad," Laliberte said. "

The original drawing was by the legendary Olmstead brothers, architects of Biltmore Estate in North

Carolina and of New York City's Central Park. It called for a pedestrian quadrangle, with detailed plantings in the center of the campus in front of the Bibb Graves building.

"And after that, things just fell into place," Laliberte said.

The Johnson family embraced the project, offering the first $50,000 donation in what would become a $1.6 million renovation project. The National Alumni Association joined the effort, spearheading the fundraising efforts and pledging to support the project.

"That was more than three years ago," Laliberte said. "We've been planning it that long, but we had to wait until funding was in place."

With the challenge of using no state appropriations for the project, TSU leaders and volunteers were charged with raising the money from alumni, university friends, grants and other sources.

"We've reached a point in the funding where we have 95 percent

of the construction costs, so we're ready to move ahead," Laliberte said.

The groundbreaking ceremony takes place at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, and construction begins immediately. "It will take about 150 days," Laliberte said. "We're anxious to get the noisiest part of the construction over with before (the fall semester) starts."

Since the renovation calls for the return to a pedestrian quadrangle, the streets and 90-plus parking spaces around the quad will be removed. Trees in the center will be removed, as well, to make way for new plantings and landscaping.

"Many of these pecan trees are old and diseased," Laliberte said. "We had an arborist come in and he said the trees are not in good shape. He said we'd be lucky if many of them have five years left."

With the renovation, more than 80 new trees will be planted along the quad. The design will follow the Olmstead brothers' plan with one deviation. "We've added a fountain in the center, with a 9-foot tall Trojan, as a focal point," Laliberte said.

The Trojan is cast by artist Larry Strickland of Florala, who also created the woodwork sculpture of a Trojan Warrior bust located in the TSU administration building.

"The Trojan (for the fountain) is depicted taking a step forward," Laliberte said. "That symbolizes the university and all the Trojans taking a step forward and taking on new challenges because we're educated and well-prepared."

Because construction will begin Wednesday, university officials have closed the quad to all parking and vehicle traffic. "And, we're working with the Troy Police Department to notify the public of any closings or delays on University Avenue," Laliberte said, adding that officials are working to keep construction delays at a minimum.

A safety and security fence will be erected to keep pedestrians out of the quad area, until renovations are complete.

"During construction, things will be not be as pretty as they will be when it's completed," Laliberte said, adding that she hopes students and residents will remain patient with the work. "In less than five months, we will have transition from an ice area to a truly exquisite focal point."