By Donna Smith | University Communications and Marketing
On any given day, tens of thousands of people work, live and study on USF’s Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses, safely navigating the roads, taking elevators, running water and finding respite from the weather outside. All these things happen often without a thought – until something goes wrong.
Maintenance on the comforts and necessities that make up the infrastructure of USF is the target of 87 critical projects that USF’s Facilities Management team is tackling on all three campuses. They’re funded by the state to support USF’s Capital Renewal Program, which addresses a portion of the university’s deferred maintenance needs.
One of the most visible projects is now complete: upgrades to the 212-foot water tower that supplies drinking water to most of the buildings on the Tampa campus. Though the new paint job is the most visible improvement, the real work was in renovating the interior of the structure.
“The tower represents the source of our fresh water serving the university's needs for drinking water, fire suppression and a number of other critical matters, so we knew that it was really mission critical for us,” said Carole Post, vice president for facilities and public safety operations. “I think the renovation represents the highest degree of stewardship of the deferred maintenance money going to the most vulnerable and most far-reaching infrastructure.”
Other projects ensure energy efficiency and comfort, such as the roof replacement project that is coming to a close at the John and Grace Allen Building – the very first building constructed at USF’s Tampa campus in 1956. Though that roof has had numerous repairs over the years, this project will be its first total replacement.
The building’s occupants have long had to dodge leaks. Renee Amboy, associate director of USF’s Office of Veteran Success, is also the building supervisor in the Allen Building and co-teaches two transitional courses for veterans there each semester, so she knows firsthand how beneficial the new roof will be.
“Protection against leaks creates a more safe and comfortable working and learning environment,” Amboy said. “It gives me great peace of mind when I teach to not have to worry about a leak or having to shift spaces.”
Some projects are directed toward Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, such as upgrades to restrooms and signage. Post said that even those not directly related to compliance are completed with accessibility in mind, wherever applicable.
“Unfortunately, when the campus was being built in the late 50s and early 60s, people were not mindful of accessibility, so we have a lot of ground to make up, but this funding makes it possible to do so in a more concentrated manner and chip away at it at a more accelerated rate.”
The atrium in the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, recently repaired with deferred maintenance funding.
The St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses are seeing improvements, as well, with both in the process of upgrading their heating and cooling systems. USF St. Petersburg will soon begin replacing the roofs of the Davis and Student Life Center buildings, and the Sarasota-Manatee community will see enhanced outdoor lighting campuswide.
Construction on deferred maintenance projects is scheduled to be completed by 2026. The Office of Administrative Services has made it easy to track their progress through this interactive map, and is working to minimize disruptions to students, faculty and staff while construction is underway.
Post said the support provided by the state is a solid investment in USF, which is growing in impact and stature.
“At the at the end of the day, the university and its physical footprint is here to serve our academic mission and vision, as well as all the elements that make us a member of the Association of American Universities,” Post said. “That means that it's incumbent on us to keep pace with restorations to ensure that our physical space meets those standards. This funding has been a transformational step in that direction.”
In addition to deferred maintenance project list, the university is nearing completion of another critical capital improvement project: enhancements and protective measures to parking garages on the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses. These include the installation of fencing atop open-air garages, with signage for suicide prevention and crisis counseling, as well as awnings and buffering landscape. Additional fencing on mid-level floors is expected to be in place this spring. These measures are in addition to other resources provided by USF, including services provided by the counseling center and access to 24/7 virtual mental health care.