While the McCarthy Hall modernization may have been delayed, it’s aiming to open in spring 2022, said Marie Johnson, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
The $40 million project is overhauling the building’s second floor to rebuild classrooms, glass-walled labs, wide study areas and an outdoor terrace. Two elevators will be replaced as the building undergoes safety upgrades.
Johnson said she is most excited to see the student friendliness that the renovations will bring.
“I see our students sit in the hall, with their backs against the wall, their feet out because we don't have a better place for them to study,” Johnson said of the building. “We all want better spaces for our students, and we're going to have informal study spaces and tables and chairs and lounges and just a place to go in between your classes.”
The second floor originally closed for construction in spring 2020. The first step was stripping it of its contents to start from scratch, Johnson said. While the opening was initially set for August 2021, it has been delayed several times since then, courtesy of pandemic-stretched supply lines and waiting for State Fire Marshal approval. Johnson said she is hopeful that it will be ready by March.
The building’s renovation is part of the “It Takes a Titan” campaign — a university goal to raise $250 million for campus projects. Of McCarthy’s $40 million project, $32 million is funded through California State University and the remainder by CSUF, according to CSUF News.
Renovations won’t just be confined to the second floor. Johnson said the other floors will be done in time, likely within the next decade, but health and safety upgrades have to first be made throughout the building.
“When you do a renovation as big as what we are doing to a building as old as our building, it triggers the fire marshal to look at the entire building. So about half of the money for the project is being spent on health, fire life safety,” she said.
Johnson recalled attending a meeting in Boston in 2017 about renovated science buildings, which was coincidental to CSUF receiving funding from the chancellor’s office. A team effort spurred the project forward, and nearly five years later, the end is in sight.
The reopening of the second floor will be a welcome home for displaced classes and offices, which were relocated when construction began and the floor shut down. Renderings of the future floor show wide, colorful hallways, glass walls, and seating — a distinct contrast to the floor’s previous seatless, shadowed halls.
The refurbished terrace will be a highlight of the renovation, which formerly had scarce seating and vending machines. Renderings visualize large tables, hanging lamps and plant life in the new terrace, which Johnson said she hopes will be popular with students.
“It'll especially benefit biology and geology majors because that's who’s on the second floor, but I really hope it benefits everybody who's just looking for a quiet place to study in between classes,” she said.
The project for future floors would be upward of an additional $96 million, according to CSUF News. For now, it starts with the second floor. The remaining renovations of McCarthy Hall could take years.
“People have worked incredibly hard. Facility has worked hard, the biology and geology department chairs, faculty. It's really disruptive; it's difficult. We had to move everything out, we had to find an alternative space for everything that happens on the second floor. This is not easy,” Johnson said. “It’s a tremendous effort by a whole lot of people over a considerable period of time. I’m really proud of what everyone has done to keep it moving.”