(COVINGTON, La) — After several months of research, planning, and preparation, St. Paul’s School principal Trevor Watkins has revealed near-completed architectural plans concerning the renovation of Benilde Hall.
“Benilde Hall sits at the center of St. Paul’s campus,” Watkins said. “Because of the building’s unique location, we plan to do some pretty unique things with it.”
Because of its central location, Watkins plans for the three-story building to resemble the student union of a college campus. To complete this endeavor, a small coffee shop will be operated on the building’s first floor. Sarge’s Snack Shop, which is currently located in the Main School Building, and the SPS Bookstore, which presently operates in Lasalle Hall, will be moved to Benilde Hall’s first floor. With these additions, Watkins hopes to establish a central hub for students on St. Paul’s campus.
“Benilde Hall will function like a student union,” Watkins said. “With this addition, we are hoping to add to the college campus feel of St. Paul’s.”
Additionally, Watkins intends to re-engineer St. Paul’s underused library. To promote student activity, the library will be moved from its current location on the second floor of Benilde Hall to the building’s first floor. Instead of hardcopy books, the library will go digital, granting students access to innumerable literary works via e-book internet subscriptions. However, the state-of-the-art library will still contain a small number of popular hardcopy books. The space will open to an outdoor sitting patio, where students could read, study and work on assignments throughout the school day.
“The library will offer the latest in technology to our students,” Watkins said. “Everything will be totally WiFi connected.”
On Benilde Hall’s second floor, where the current library resides, six new Religion classrooms will be constructed. The existing classrooms on the third floor will be renovated, creating six fresh Spanish classrooms.
“Essentially, we are adding an additional classroom on each floor,” Watkins said. “There’s a lot of unused space in Benilde Hall. We want to capture this unused interior space, and maximize its function.”
Accessibility presents an issue for present-day Benilde Hall. Today, the building utilizes only one staircase, which is used by all students entering and exiting the second and third floors. Outside, there are no covered walkways to protect students and their books from rainfall as they exit or approach the building.
“Simply put, the access into Benilde Hall is not good,” Watkins said. “Although we are using the building and it functions fine now, we could make better use of the building through a renovation.”
Through multiple structural additions, the accessibility issues that plague Benilde Hall will be combatted. An additional staircase will be constructed on the opposite side of the building, providing students with another access point to the building’s upper levels. Also, an elevator system will be implemented specifically for handicapped students. A covered walkway will border the perimeter of the renovated Benilde Hall, offering students refuge during unfavorable weather conditions.
“On the far side of the building, we intend to add an additional staircase,” Watkins said. “An elevator system will be installed on the front side of Benilde Hall, and an exterior walkway will be constructed around the perimeter of the building.”
According to Watkins, many of Benilde Hall’s current restroom facilities are severely lacking. In order to resolve this issue, the building’s existing restrooms will be refurbished. A new restroom will also be installed on the building’s second floor.
Benilde Hall’s renovation plans are near completion. Soon, after the plans are approved, contractors will be hired, and the renovation process will begin. Currently, there is not an exact deadline set for the completion of the project.
“As of now, we are in the final phases of the design process,” Watkins said. “The final architectural plans are approximately 90% complete, and the school is in the process of acquiring funds for the project.”
However, even after the renovation of Benilde Hall is completed, Watkins believes there will be many more construction projects in St. Paul’s future.
“Improving the campus is a task that is never truly completed,” Watkins said. “We are always thinking about which project is next.”