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Old North Old North Rises Again: Construction Begins this Spring to Restore the Historic Tower

Work begins this fall to complete the renovation of Old North, Central's most beloved landmark.

The effort, however, is a two-phase project, with funding in place only for Phase I.

For many, though, seeing the work begin is a boon in the grand building's long history.

Like most UCO graduates, Foundation Trustee member Leroy Coffman (BSEd '57) fondly remembers parading through Old North for graduation.

However, what was then called the traditional "walk through" became the "walk by" with records indicating the last march occurred in 1999. Old North was closed in 2001. 

"Old North's closing was disheartening for not only our faculty, staff and students who were displaced but also for the countless number of alumni who have proudly walked the halls of Old North during their years at UCO," said UCO Provost Dr. Bill Radke.

Nine years later, the outside façade of Old North has been preserved, but Old North's doors remained closed. Repairs became more extensive than originally anticipated, building costs increased, and then came recent funding shortfalls.

Part of a $5 million state bond issue was used to renovate the exterior of Old North. University officials will use the remaining $3 million to complete Phase I, including the construction of a new structure to the east of Old North. This structure will solve building code requirements such as an elevator system and a new air handling unit. Crosswalks will connect the two buildings, which will appear as one. The new structure also will include information technology rooms and an outdoor classroom amphitheater opening into Plunkett Park.

Old North's red sandstone façade - deteriorating before renovation because of its soft, porous nature - will be duplicated for new construction using a process where ground sandstone is combined with an epoxy substance, then cast into molds. The new product will be more durable, while matching the original Old North Tower's exterior.

Phase II will focus on renovating Old North's interior. Approximately $6 million in private gifts will be needed.

"With the recent budget shortfalls, we are relying on the generosity of our alumni and friends more than ever to make the renovation of Old North Tower's interior possible," said Anne Holzberlein, vice president for development at UCO and executive director of the UCO Foundation.

Phase II will create new office and classroom spaces on three floors. And the President's Office will return to the third floor, its original location.

"Phase II is critical for several reasons," said Holzberlein. "Not only do we desperately need the classroom and office space for our growing student body, but more importantly, we have a community responsibility to restore such an important link to our state's history and institutional identity."

With the bond money in hand, Phase I is expected to take 18 months to complete. Phase II completion depends on raising the additional $6 million.

For more information, or to contribute, contact the UCO Foundation at (405) 974-2770.