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Sage Hall: Experiments in Coeducation and Preservation at Cornell University

by Jennifer Cleland and Robert P. Stundtner

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Cajun Carnival

Bob’s reports continued to be distributed to Cornellians beyond the campus, as word of the scale of the project spread.For example, Donna Spinella forwarded the next update to CU alumni with this note:

Following is another installment in the ongoing Sage saga, direct from the keyboard of project manager Bob Stundtner, who's a little bit of Dave Barry, Bob Villa, and Scotty ("Captain, she can't take much more, ah'm givin' her all that I've got,") rolled into one…

Update 7

9/21/96

Delayed Broadcast from the Sage Hall Asbestos Free Zone:

On Sunday August 25th, Sage Hall was declared asbestos free.Well, for the small, nominal removal cost of $1.5 million, it wasn't exactly free, was it? And to be precise, there is still some asbestos roof felts left under the slates that we did not remove.However, compared to the 2,250,000 pounds of asbestos debris removed by LVI Environmental Services, we can think of the building as free of asbestos.

Congratulations to LVI, Galson Corporation, and Paul Sarokwash as the successful team of contractor, environmental consultant, and Cornell asbestos project manager for completing the University's largest single asbestos removal project safely, profitably, within budget and without adverse schedule implications for the overall project.

The brick curtain falls on the week of the Wall:

The voodoo wall finally met its match on Friday August 16th.All week long, the wall kept moving and unraveling our plans for safely dismantling it.Heavy equipment with a long extension claw was brought in for a planned Saturday lancing of the eye-popping bulge.However, severe thundershowers Thursday night caused another major movement that continued Friday morning.We scrambled to assemble the equipment and set 1pm for a little wall surgery.

Word spread of the impending effort to safely remove the bulge and a small crowd of onlookers gathered across the street at the Statler bus stop.We convened the project team for one last review of the plan.When everyone was assured we had in place what we needed to safely proceed, we went to work. The Integrated Waste Services equipment operator did a very precise job of reaching up and gently poking the center of the bulge. Like a giant soap bubble being poked, the wall flexed inward over a foot and then sprang back out onto the tines of the outreached claw.A few tense seconds passed and then the operator moved the claw upward a couple of inches.Just as we planned, the claw supported the roof and the bricks fell away in a crash of noise and dust.

We waited a few minutes to review how stable the roof and remaining wall were.Once we were confident conditions were safe to go inside, Integrated went in to brace up the walls and roof.By 3pm we were done and the only casualties were two Port-a-johns. Sarokwash had turned away Ed's Heads from servicing the two toilets, noting they hadn't been used all week.He had to sign a receipt acknowledging access was blocked, preventing servicing.One unit is about half as tall as it used to be and the other is full of bricks that are tumbling out the door.It's an image that inspires all the "brick" joke clichés.

Additional monitoring and a few more braces allowed the asbestos removal to proceed to its successful conclusion.Now, the wall retention system is nearing completion and Integrated is back working on their selective removal work.Stay tuned for their "planned" work.It should be just as interesting as the unforeseen voodoo wall effort.

Bob

[From: Paul Sarokwash: Thanks for the honorable mentions.I think you missed your calling – you should have been a writer for soap opera series.This last episode was exciting, well written, and left me hungering for more.Can't wait ‘til next week – or can I?]

The legal challenges obstructing progress on the Sage Hall project were finally and happily resolved when the Court of Appeals denied the Heritage Coalition the right to appeal, as reported in the Cornell Chronicle of September 5th:

Appeal of Sage Hall rulings denied: The New York State Court of Appeals last week rejected a petition by the Heritage Coalition Inc. for permission to appeal lower court rulings on Cornell's Sage Hall building project..."People interested and knowledgeable about historic preservation were consulted from the earliest planning stages of this project. Much of their input was willingly incorporated into the design. Cornell's architects and historic preservation consultants developed a real win-win plan. Most people involved in historic preservation, such as the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission and the community's local historic organization, Historic Ithaca Inc., recognized this and supported it. It's unfortunate there was a lawsuit at all, when there are needy historic preservation projects out there that could have used such resources," said Shirley Egan, associate university counsel.

Naturally, Bob was very relieved that the project could go forward as planned, and outlined the upcoming challenges of the renovation process in his next update...