USF construction projects see progress, setbacks

The new Judy Genshaft Honors College location began construction November 2020 and is set to be completed February 2023 instead of its original December 2022 deadline. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

USF Design and Construction and the USF Research Foundation have faced pandemic-related complications, but are progressing on multiple projects, including remodeling and constructing new buildings that are projected to be completed in 2022 and 2023.

The university has been working on four major construction projects, including the new Judy Genshaft Honors College (JGHC), Wellness Center, Research Park and Indoor Performance Facility. The latter two are scheduled to be completed in 2022 and the Honors College and Wellness Center in 2023.

Research Park is a $42 million project of the USF Research Foundation, and it’s being produced in collaboration with Skanska, a production and construction company. It will be the first of the constructions to be completed, with the ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for March 2022.

The new building is set to have amenities available to students and faculty, including a dining hall and a rooftop deck, according to Director of Research Foundation Operations Allison Madden.

Although the schedule of the building was determined before the pandemic, Madden said the foundation experienced no pricing escalations due to the pandemic, and they had access to subcontractors available when needed.

“We were in a situation where, when COVID first started, a lot of places shut down all of their construction activities, like in Orlando, which meant that there were a lot of subcontractors that were looking for work,” Madden said. “We were at a point in our building where we were seeking subcontractors to start working on [the Research Park]. So we were in the right place at the right time.”

Madden said the building process has largely been monitored remotely due to the pandemic, utilizing a construction webcam to monitor progress with the occasional in-person walkthrough. Biweekly meetings with Skanska have been conducted remotely as well.

“It’s been kind of interesting because when you do come on site once a week or so to go check on things, there’s been a dramatic change,” Madden said. “It’s been a little bit disappointing to not be able to be as hands-on as what we would have been [before the pandemic], but there has been no loss of communication with all of the designers, architects, engineers and contractors.”

The Research Foundation and Skanska are currently completing the core and shell of the building, constructing the exterior and interior walls, girders, rafters and beams.

The next project set to be completed, the Indoor Performance Facility, located on USF Sycamore Drive, is a construction set to serve all of USF Athletics. The interior will be approximately 65 feet tall and be designed to allow for a lot of natural light, according to Director of Design and Construction Steve Lafferty.

The facility is going to have a quick building process due to its simplistic design, he said. It should be completed in fall 2022.

“They removed the old astroturf space. The site has been cleared and they’re going to start digging foundations very soon,” Lafferty said. “You should start to see some of the large metal structures arriving in February.”

The USF Facilities and Management AEC Experience webpage is available for the public to access these construction sites and explore them virtually. The site offers online live webcams as well as 360-degree progress documentation that lets the viewer be a part of the construction experience in real-time and see it through to completion.

The JGHC building, set to open spring 2023, will serve as the new home of the Office of National Scholarships in addition to the Honors College, according to Lafferty.

Located north of the Muma College of Business, the construction of the building was originally priced at $54.6 million, but has since increased to $55.6 million due to the demands of several major donors to the project, shifting and increasing the cost by about $1 million.

The building has been a project of USF since early November 2020, and has currently been under development.

“We’re pretty much complete with the concrete structural frame, so all of our structural framing should be in place by the end of this month [January],” Lafferty said. “Some of the metal panels that will wrap the building have arrived onsite, so you should start seeing those go up this week.”

The new Honors College is meant to be a renowned piece of architecture that provides an approach to collaboration through an open atrium, a cafe and multiple study spaces available to all USF students and faculty, according to Lafferty.

Though there is no exact date in place for the completion of the Honors College building, Lafferty said the construction deadline has been slightly extended from December 2022 to February 2023. It will now open for the public in March or April of the same year, whereas previously it was set to open by January 2023.

The USF Wellness Center, planned to open sometime in 2023, is also an upcoming development on campus, meant to supplement Student Health Services. It will be providing a pharmacy, general medicine, nutrition, urgent care space, general medicine, physical therapy, psychological health and sexual health services.

The funding of the Wellness Center’s construction is set apart from other buildings, as it’s being funded entirely by student fees, according to Lafferty.

“Every semester [students] pay an Activities Fee,” he said. “They’ve been accumulating those student activities fees for a number of years, to the point where they’re now building a $27.4 million project.”

The building’s foundational work and underground plumbing have been completed, and the structural steel framework is currently being put up. Lafferty said the steel framing is planned to be completed in a few weeks. The completion date has not yet been decided, but it is projected to be done by 2023.

“How the spaces are actually experienced and how they function and promote the collaborative interaction of students, faculty and staff is going to be most impactful,” he said. “We’re very excited about that.”