Frequent visitors to downtown Cleveland may note the advances the project has had in recent months. A tall, steel frame has been given shape by curved brick walls and covered by a high roof. Windows line the outside of the building in various shapes and sizes. The landscape around the construction hub is almost completely leveled off and ready for its transition from dirt to greenery.
Director of Special Projects Cole Strong said the build has been very technical.
“There are vendors on site already who are starting to get the cables pulled and racks mounted,” he said. “Once things are finished up inside, equipment will be installed.”
A walk through the building is filled with the sounds of construction and the sight of men and women working on various projects.
The building’s technical aspects are a product of the rooms being built to enrich and expand the Communication Department’s curriculum.
Strong pointed to items like the black box theater, screening room, newsroom, TV studio, Foley pit, design lab and server room.
Department head Dr. Joel Kailing said the specialized rooms will allow for specific training to prepare students for jobs in various industries.
He explained the updated facilities complemented by the great faculty would make for a competitive program.
Ideas for the newest Lee building entered development about three years ago.
“We were told to look at options for a new building. Several departments on campus were asked what it would look like if they had their own facility,” Kailing said. “… We dreamed and wrote it down.”
The first building Kailing envisioned, along with representatives from both the theater and digital media disciplines, was too large. The three scaled back their requests to a more manageable size.
“What is especially fun for me as one of the people who was a part of that committee, is to walk around the building and see that dream become a reality,” Kailing said. “So many of the spaces we came up with were spaces we envisioned.”
One such space will be immediately noticeable to students and visitors who enter the Church Street entrance directly across from Pangle Hall. It is the newsroom. The room will be utilized by the Lee Clarion newspaper staff and be complete with computers, monitors and other tech equipment. Windows built into the wall will allow anyone in the lobby to follow the activity inside.
Strong quickly explained the newsroom is not the only place of interest on the first floor.
The black box theater, also known as an experimental theater, promises to be a treat for both actors and theatergoers alike.
A skydeck hangs above the theater floor. The tension grid will allow students to man lighting and props above the stage during a performance. The lights can change based on the needs of the play.
The main floor itself can also be adjusted for more or less space. Risers can fill all four sides of the room, or as little as one.
A TV studio will be a little ways down the corridor.
“We will have windows in the hallway so you can look into the control room,” Strong explained. “You will be able to see the monitors mounted on the far wall over here, with two producer desks that come out off of the south wall. You will be able to see all of this in action.”
The area will be equipped with a Foley pit will allow students to create post-production sounds for video recordings.
A sound stage complete with a large garage area for an equipment trailer will be situated in one corner of the first floor.
Strong explained the large room would have different stations. One will be a news desk for the Lee updates. Another might be set up for a classroom. Multiple sets means there will not be a continual cycle of breakdown and construction.
Prospective students and guests to the campus will have an opportunity to tour the facilities once school begins.
“We think these spaces show off well and people are interested to see them,” Strong said. “When you have space like this, which is highly technical, but also interesting, you do not want to close it off so no one ever gets to see it.”
Kailing said the spaces allow for equipment the department has coveted for years. He highlighted the screening theater as one such place.
The 106-seat theater with a projector box, lights on the side and large, adjustable screen gives the appearance of a miniature theater. There are currently no seats in the room, but Strong assured they would arrive mid to late July. Classes of up to 80 students will utilize the space, in addition to special events like first screenings and the Lee Film Festival.
The second floor has less technical spaces. It is a sharp contrast to the first floor in the construction process. Strong explained most of the rooms and hallways have the first coat of paint. Some of the offices have carpet and flooring akin to a stage has been placed in the theater rehearsal space.
Kailing said both faculty and students are eager to use the new facilities. It will be the first Communications-exclusive building since the department formed in 1997. The move will allow the full-time faculty to be under the same roof.
He offered a warning to students in the midst of scheduling for next year.
“People are going to have to schedule much more carefully,” Kailing said of strategizing the whens and wheres of classes. “This campus has gotten bigger and it just keeps getting bigger.”
He offered a word of thanks to disgruntled Communication graduates who will not have an opportunity to utilize the resources.
“Why are we getting this?” Kailing asked. “It is because people like you have gone out and taken what we were able to give you and have done something with it.”