Shriver Hall reopening delayed until next year

By JAMES SCHARF | February 22, 2018

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COURTESY OF RIPARIUS CONSTRUCTION INC.

Construction, originally set to finish in January, was extended into the 2018-2019 academic year. 

For the second semester in a row, students will be unable to use Shriver Hall as a performance venue due to additional renovations. Shriver, which has been under construction since summer 2017, was originally slated to reopen at the beginning of the spring 2018 semester. However, the project has been extended into the 2018-2019 school year. 

Sophomore Emily Velandia did not expect the University to meet its January deadline and subsequently was not surprised by the delayed opening. 

“Construction never takes the amount of time that they say it will,” she said. “When they told us that it was going to open in January, I actually remember commenting to someone, ‘It won’t be open in January.’”

In an email to The News-Letter, Bob McLean, the vice president of Johns Hopkins Facilities and Real Estate (JHFRE), explained that the original goal of construction was to replace the lighting and electrical systems in the auditorium.

McLean explained that the deadline became unrealistic after expanding the project to include a new HVAC system and updated fire alarm and sprinkler systems in order to meet new building code requirements. 

JHFRE also plans on adding new features to the auditorium, main lobby, boardroom and Clipper Room. The project will also include adding new seating, floors and windows. 

“Now that we’ve finished studying the building and planning for what needs to be done, it’s clear that the overall project will have to continue into the 2018-2019 academic year,” he wrote.

Some students have worried that construction has been extended in order to eliminate traces of asbestos in the building. McLean wrote that the current renovations are unrelated to these claims. 

“To be clear: This does not mean that there was an asbestos problem in the building before construction,” McLean wrote. “What it means is that the renovation process itself might have released asbestos contained in building materials if proper remediation steps were not taken. We have taken those steps.”

According to McLean, many students requested the additional renovations. 

In an email to The News-Letter, Homewood Arts Programs Director Eric Beatty mentioned that he thinks only a few student groups’ performances have been altered.

“The Homewood Arts Programs student groups that have been affected are the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, the Wind Ensemble, the dance groups and the a cappella groups,” Beatty wrote.

Beatty wrote that the University was able to reschedule most of Shriver’s typical fall events to alternate locations, like the Recreation Center, or to venues in the Baltimore community. 

“The only event that we were not able to host this year was the annual International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella [ICCA]. Normally Hopkins hosts a mid-Atlantic quarterfinal round in Shriver in February, and we were not able to find a suitable venue for that, so it was held at the University of MD, College Park,” he wrote.

Graduating senior Eli Pivo said that the Johns Hopkins Outdoors Club, an organization which he is a member of, typically hosts its annual fundraiser at the ICCAs. However, he doubted that it would impact the group’s finances.

Beatty noted that the consequences of altering venues was minimal.

“The orchestra concerts had a slightly lower total attendance this fall compared to the last few years, which we attribute to the concerts being off campus,” Beatty wrote. “Our spring dance concerts will be in the Baltimore Museum of Art auditorium and on a special stage in the Goldfarb Gym.”

Spring concerts for the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra will be in the Interfaith Center, a significantly smaller space than Shriver.

“We expect the acoustics, hall atmosphere and intimacy will all contribute to a very positive audience experience,” Beatty wrote.

Beatty acknowledged that more local Baltimoreans attended the concerts than in previous years.

Pivo disagreed with Beatty about the impact of Shriver’s closing. He felt that the alternative venues created a very different atmosphere and environment than Shriver. 

“The [Intersession] stand-up show was held in Hodson instead, and not everyone fit. There were a bunch of people sitting on the floor. That kind of sucked. But also, it created a more homey environment: a more casual environment,” Pivo said.

Pivo felt that the changes in venue negatively impacted his desire to attend events.

“I’m less inclined to go to events. Over the years there’s been big events like Bernie Sanders, like big comedians coming, and that’s a shame [to miss],” Pivo said.

In an email to The News-Letter, Sophia Porter, the president of the Octopodes, an a cappella group, wrote that the renovations did not impact the majority of her group’s performances.

“The Octopodes’ performances in Shriver are typically for major recruiting events like SOHOP and O-Show,” Porter wrote. “SOHOP has been moved to a smaller venue, where we expect less visibility.”

Despite the changes in venue, Porter is still excited for the changes that the renovations will bring.

“I’m thrilled that Shriver is getting a face-lift. In the past, its sound and light systems haven’t always functioned well, and as a prestigious university with many performing arts groups, Hopkins deserves to have an excellent performance venue,” Porter wrote.

However, Porter worries that construction, if it continues until the beginning of next year, would prevent some students from attending concerts.

Still, she thinks that most other a cappella groups have for the most part avoided any negative consequences from the construction.

“I know other groups typically use Arellano and other smaller venues, as our concerts typically wouldn’t draw out a large enough audience to fill Shriver anyway,” Porter wrote.

Victoria Dawe, Special Events Coordinator in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, wrote in an email to The News-Letter that the Office of Admissions typically uses Shriver for large events for prospective students. 

For example, the Office often uses Shriver to host large information sesssions. This semester, they have used Hodson Hall, Shaffer Hall, the Glass Pavilion and the Recreation Center instead. 

“We’ve had to secure new spaces for our events and add sessions to properly distribute the crowds on high traffic days. However, the construction was communicated to us well in advance, so we’ve been able to plan ahead,” she wrote.

Corrections:

The article originally stated that construction will continue through the 2018-2019 school year when it is actually projected to be completed sometime during that school year.

The photo credit was incorrectly attributed to Bob McLean when it should be attributed to Riparius Construction Inc.

The News-Letter regrets these errors.

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