By Silas Hood, Apr. 15, 2021
Posing a financial and safety burden on the university, Cal Poly Pomona’s Classroom, Laboratory and Administration building began its soft demolition phase in March, expected to last until mid-May.
Three years after the building’s official closure in 2018, the California State University Chancellor’s Office approved CPP’s Facilities Planning and Management’s request for a $14.2 million budget to remove the tower and accompanying Registrars Building from the campus and renovate the space. Plagued by seismic safety concerns, construction flaws, mechanical system issues, poor energy efficiency and costly maintenance, the university concluded the removal of the building would be best for the campus.
This project clears Cal Poly Pomona from the Chancellors Office’s top priority list for seismic safety Aaron Klemm, senior associate vice president of Facilities Planning and Management, shared in an email with The Poly Post.
In preparation for the hard demolition phase set to begin May 23 after commencement, the Construction Manager at Risk, C.W. Driver, hired trade contractors to remove all non-structural internals of the building and clear leftover unsalvageable equipment from its initial closure.
“This is a CM at Risk delivery-type project … that’s the standard that gets utilized more than any other method in the CSU,” said Bruyn Bevans, senior project manager of Facilities Planning, Design and Construction. “C.W. Driver in this case contracts trade contractors to do the different phases of the work.”
Penhall, a construction firm, is planned to execute the hard demolition, while A.J. Kirkwood and other subcontractors work behind the scenes caring for the electrical demolition, fire alarm systems, and the plumbing.
As vehicles come and go, debris accumulating in the enclosed construction space, students have watched on in anticipation for the fall of the campus icon.
“I am very sad because I feel like it is very iconic and its one of the first things that draw you to the campus, however, I do see the positive as far as it is for a good cause,” said Maritza Casillas, a liberal studies student. “It’s not being inhabited, so it’s just kind of standing there and I think we have to push for something better; it’s going to be a greener alternative.”
In place of the tower, after its removal through the 2022 summer, is a proposed common area green space where students may sit, study and enjoy the preserved Aratani Japanese Garden in a new way.
“We’re not allowed to build anything on the site because of its earthquake proximity so what our plan is at this point in time is we are utilizing the landscape architect (Brad Lance) … and Spurlock Landscape (to) design California-friendly plants and open space for the students,” said Bevans.
Harrison Wright, a mechanical engineering student, shared a similar sentiment to the ongoing project and proposed renovation.
“It’s kind of sad to see the CLA tower go because it is such a trademark, but the green space I would agree with, it sounds like a cool idea,” said Wright
Once the first phase of demolition concludes mid-May, the project will transition into a meticulous structural demolition of the building to minimize disruption to nearby classrooms and offices through summer and to preserve the Aratani Japanese Garden. During which, Penhall has proposed to scaffold off the entire building, urging early graduation photos.
“They are proposing at this point in time to scaffold the whole entire building all the way to the eighth floor because they believe they are going to have to take it down one piece at a time, that’s going to eliminate photo opportunities,” said Bevans.
All operations within the classroom side of the building will be halted during this phase for safety reasons and will return the following academic year; the only alterations to the classroom building will be fixes to the connection points of the tower.
Renovations for what will be left over after the incision-like demolition are tied to another project proposal due to a lack of necessary space for student and faculty relocation.
“The renovation of the classroom area is slated for another project 5-7 years down the road, it’s predicated on another project that is waiting for funding from the Chancellors Office for an expansion of the library to create classroom spaces,” said Bevans.
As project planners cannot yet determine the effects of removing half of the structure due to the weight of the tower, a timeline and proposal are yet to be released for this stage.
“We’re trying to hold off on what the final decision is for the restoration because we don’t know how much structural work we are going to have to do at the site to maintain the integrity of the classroom and plaza buildings,” said Bevans.
After four years of closure, an icon to the Cal Poly Pomona campus finally begins its fall marking a final chance for students to photograph the iconic tower as the demolition project paves way for a new opportunity in the now vacant space.