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Skylight replacement part of massive CFA renovation

By SUE WUETCHER

Published July 24, 2015

The Center for the Arts is in the midst of a major renovation project as crews work this summer to replace 365 feet of skylights in the building that serves as the hub for the arts at UB.

The CFA, which opened in 1994, is “getting a 20-year facelift,” jokes Katherine Trapanovski, director of events and outreach.

All skylight panels along the length of the atrium, as well as panels over the UB Art Gallery, the Department of Art and the gables at the front and back of the building, are being removed. Those skylights are made of fiberglass, explains Vincent Harzewski, associate facilities director for the CFA, and have darkened as the resin has worn over time, leaving behind the fibers of the fiberglass. “We’re losing a lot of light,” he says.

Trapanovski says that when the new, tempered-glass skylights are installed, the space will be brighter and cleaner looking. That is particularly critical for the art department, she says, noting light levels can significantly change the “art dynamic.”

In fact, numerous panels already have been replaced in art department spaces “and the difference is practically night and day,” adds Dave Wedekindt, director of marketing for the CFA.

Despite the massive scale of the project, the building has remained open for business, thanks to the installation of scaffolding along the entire length of the atrium. “We’ve tried to stay completely functioning,” Trapanovski says, noting the traditional early-summer fare of dance recitals and high school graduation ceremonies took place as usual.

Moreover, the center is set up to handle the big shows, she says, which included an appearance by Weird Al Yankovic last week, an upcoming, sold-out performance by Bonnie Raitt on Aug. 2 and a full season of musical, dance, theater and other programming set to begin in the fall.

The skylight replacement is the culmination of the $6.8-million first phase of a multi-phase renovation project at the CFA. This phase also included installation of roughly 2,000 aluminum panels, reconstruction of the north stairway leading down to Lake LaSalle and repair of the concrete plaza decks and sidewalks to stop water leaking into the basement of the building, according to Rob Weller, project manager for Facilities Planning and Design.

The $2.5-million second phase of the project, scheduled for summer 2016, includes replacement of the roof. Phase three, which would not start until 2017, would involve brick and panel work on the exterior façade, Weller says. The cost of that work is estimated at $6 million.

The plan for the CFA renovation, Harzewski notes, is to “keep the look as close to the original as possible.”

As the skylight work progresses, workers have replaced the glass panels in the front gable of the building and are making their way along the length of the atrium, finishing up with the gable at the back of the building.

A webcam has been set up to monitor the construction; the frame refreshes every five seconds.

Trapanovski says the hope is that the majority of the skylight replacement will be finished by the start of the fall semester so that the crane — “our biggest safety issue” — can be removed and the scaffolding moved toward the back of the building to lessen the impact once students return in full force.

Some scaffolding is expected to remain in place until mid-December. Once all the skylights are installed, drywall will be finished and painted, and new lighting installed.

In the meantime, student artwork and banners are being hung along the atrium to dress up the space and give it “a more welcoming feel,” Trapanovski says, noting the space looks a bit like a New York City loft.

“We’re hoping people see this not as an inconvenience, but as a cool space,” she says.