$6.4 million project brightens Zabel Hall

By By Dick Mason September 28, 2012 11:30 am

Zabel Hall reopened recently following a nine-month intermission for a $6.4 million renovation project. It represents the first major renovation work done in the building since it opened in 1974. DICK MASON - The Observer
Zabel Hall reopened recently following a nine-month intermission for a $6.4 million renovation project. It represents the first major renovation work done in the building since it opened in 1974. DICK MASON - The Observer
 

By Dick Mason
The Observer

Amanda Zabel, the woman for whom Zabel Hall at EOU is named, holds a prominent place in the university’s history.

Zabel was one of the original teachers at Eastern when it opened in 1929. The popular professor taught English and directed stage plays during her tenure at EOU.

Theater productions have never been conducted in the building named in honor of the late professor. Still today it can be said that the curtain for the second act in the Zabel Hall story has been raised. 

Zabel Hall reopened recently following a nine-month intermission for a $6.4 million renovation project. It represents the first major renovation work done in the building since it opened in 1974.

The classroom building that faculty and students enter and exit today is far more welcoming than the one they walked out of when it closed last December. The renovation project has added a livelier feel to the once bunker-like building and made one of Eastern’s darkest structures one of its brightest.

“It transformed the building,” said David Lageson, director of facilities and planning at EOU. “We wanted to make it more welcoming and useful for students.”

Ray Brown, an EOU assistant education professor, whose office is in Zabel Hall, said the project succeeded in a big way.

“I think it makes it a more friendly place. It is more welcoming, the building has a lot more natural light,” Brown said. 

The natural light Brown speaks of was added by punching out portions of the building’s thick concrete and replacing it with expansive windows and skylights. This is most apparent in the building’s two stairwells, where tall decorative windows greet people instead of faceless concrete. Light from the windows extends well past the stairwells.

“The windows have changed the feel of the corridors,’’ Lageson said.

Zabel also appears brighter because all of its windows are now clear, a stark contrast from the bronze-tinted ones the structure previously had.

The renovated building also has features designed to encourage students to linger longer in the building. They include:

• a computer lab connected to a student lounge area

• alcoves along the sides of hallways where students can mingle and study in comfort

“We wanted to give students a reason to be in the building after class,” Lageson said.

After the first week of classes it appears students are already more at home in the building. Brown said he sees students studying in Zabel from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Previously he rarely saw students outside of classrooms in Zabel because they had few places to sit.

Students may find themselves spending more time not only in Zabel but outside in its courtyard. Previously the courtyard had a closed-in feel, making it uninviting. 

To address this problem the concrete wall on the west side was taken down. Concrete benches have been added and landscaping work is being done to further add to the courtyard’s appeal.

People entering the courtyard from Zabel Hall will emerge from a building that no longer has vinyl tile floors. The tile has been removed and the concrete below it polished. Lageson said this looks better and that the concrete floors will be easier to maintain: “They will not need to be waxed.”

The renovation project posed a temporary inconvenience to professors because they had to move their offices to modular units on the west side of campus. The units they moved to are at Dorion Park, the site of the old Dorion residence hall, which was torn down in 2010. Most of the modulars will soon be removed.

The renovated offices Eastern professors returned to are a major improvement from their old ones. One reason is they have windows that can be opened. The renovated offices are not larger, but Brown said they appear to be. He attributes this to the additional sunlight they have because of bigger windows and a new lighting system.

Brown said the move by education and business faculty back into Zabel went well because of excellent work done by the staff of the College of Education and Business and the information technology staff at EOU. Brown credits the leadership of Beth Upshaw, college operation manager for the College of Education and Business, with playing a key role in the smooth transition.

The $6.4 million renovation project was funded by the sale of bonds approved by the legislature and money from the Oregon Department of Energy. The funding from the department of energy was meant to make the building more energy efficient.

Fortis Construction of Portland was the contractor for the Zabel project, and Hennebery Eddy Architects of Portland was the designer. Lageson credits both firms with doing superb work.

 Zabel Hall is one of three EOU buildings that have been dramatically renovated over the past 18 months years. Renovation of Pierce Library is almost complete, and the old Ackerman Gym was converted into a community events center the summer of 2011. The center, which was a temporary library in 2011-12, is being renamed the David E. Gilbert Center. Gilbert, who died this summer, was Eastern’s president from 1982 to 1997.

Presently major renovation work at the Hoke Union Building is under way and will be complete by April. In May renovation of Quinn Coliseum will begin. Both buildings will remain open to the public during renovation. 

Lageson is delighted to have the opportunity to oversee all these projects as Eastern’s facilities and planning director.

“It is an exciting and fun time to be here.”