Renovations underway at May Hall

Donald Halsing / THE GATEPOST

Renovations to May Hall, one of Framingham’s oldest buildings, began this fall semester.

Both the exterior and interior frames of the building are being repaired.

The repairs will be completed by early November.

Patricia Whitney, assistant vice president of Facilities and Capital Planning, said May Hall is having some problems with the “building envelope” – the space between the inside and outside of the building.

She said the exterior frame of the building was suffering from “water intrusion.”

The University undertook a study a couple of years ago to identify the “worst culprits” causing damage to the building, she said. 

Whitney added the contractor is currently working on a “number of building envelope items” such as repairing the upper roof and “reappointing” bricks.

“A number of [gutters] had just started to fail,” Whitney said, “so we’re replacing some downspouts as well.”

She said May Hall’s stairway walls have been damaged every year and the building’s roof used to be pitched.

“Then it was replaced by a flat roof with a skylight,” she said. “And that flat roof with a skylight has been leaking water that has been getting into the walls.” 

The construction was supposed to be completed by mid-September, but the project was more complicated than anticipated, Whitney said.

“What happens a lot with older buildings and buildings that have been renovated multiple times is, sometimes, you encounter things inside the walls that were unexpected,” she said. “The drawings from decades ago – when they changed the roof – did not correctly reflect the conditions.

“So, when the contractor went to do the work at the top of the stair towers, he couldn’t do it the way it was designed – we had to have the architect and engineer come back out,” she added.

Whitney said there have been a number of issues identified in the building. The University needs to provide some “other funding” in the next couple of years in order to address issues with water infiltration and cosmetic repairs, she said.

Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said the University undertakes projects through “different funding sources.”

He said the University received funding for this project primarily from the Commonwealth Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance.

Whitney said the cost of the work being completed this fall is approximately $450,000.

Hamel said the aggregated funding identified for May Hall in the FSU Capital Spending Plan is approximately $758,000. This includes funding for flooring, stairs, and other repairs along with the current work on the building envelope. 

Hamel said the Small Repairs Program allocated $133,000 for the May Hall project. The program is used to provide “some relief” to campuses affected by COVID-19.

Additionally, he said the Small Repairs Program provides state funding for smaller capital projects.

“And then, through the … prioritization process, we have another $32,000 budgeted this fiscal year for wood flooring or corridor upgrades in May,” he said.

Whitney said early work on resurfacing the stairs and flooring in May Hall is beginning.

She said the work of the construction company, Mill City Construction Inc., will keep “a lot of water out of the building.

“That’s our hope – to really make the building tighter to address some of the water infiltration issues and just make a better place for people to work and study,” she added.

Whitney said her department “oversees the work” and is coordinating with the contractor to “minimize the impact on people in the building.”

The contractor is not supposed to be noisy during work or classroom hours, according to Whitney.

She said it’s her job to “try to minimize” the construction’s impact on students.

“When we get a call, we respond,” she said.

Katie Ash, a senior psychology major, said even though she doesn’t have any classes in May Hall this semester, the construction has “inconveniently” impacted her walking routes.

She said she has been “cutting across the grass” in order to avoid the equipment vehicles.

“Hopefully, it’ll be over soon so we can start walking there again,” Ash said.

Corey Lawson, a sophomore American sign language major, said she hasn’t been affected by the noise in her May Hall class.

She said she’s more impacted by the difficulties of getting around the construction equipment. Often, she ends up with “wet shoes” from walking on the grass to avoid the vehicles.

In a “perfect world,” the construction would finish sooner rather than later, she said.

AJ Peltz, a freshman accounting major, said he isn’t bothered by the noise in his classes.

He said everything has been “pretty normal” except for the outside view.

May Hall looks damaged, he said.

Peltz said, “I do think it’s [construction] taken a little bit longer than typical … but I think it is needed.

“It all depends on how the infrastructure comes out in the end,” he added. “If it’s done right and it’s done well … then it’s going to take a little bit longer.”

Owen Thornton, a sophomore history major, said he has two classes in May Hall this semester.

He said he sometimes worries about a tool being “dropped on [his] head” before he enters the building.

Thornton occasionally finds the construction noise distracting, he said.

“Although, it’s hard to differentiate based on where my classes are,” Thornton said. “I don’t know if I’m getting hit with noise from the construction or A/C noise from outside.

“There are plenty of distracting noises in that building,” he added.

Nicole Vieira, a senior English major, said while she hasn’t been affected by the construction, her honors thesis professor had to move out of her office in May Hall.

“But other than that, I’m glad they’re doing construction on it – it’s a pretty old building,” she said.

Vieira said she thinks the workers should wrap up the construction “as quick as they possibly” can, and should not take “too long.”

English Professor Kristen Abbott Bennett said the construction workers have been busy working outside, rather than in her office.

She said they were working on construction in the hallway Sept. 29. 

The workers stripped the downstairs wall to see how far back the water damage went, she said.

Abbott Bennett added the roof leak is a “big deal,” as May Hall is the “jewel of Framingham.

“It’s very historic – it’s a Henry Hobson building,” she said. “And I heard a story – I don’t know if it’s true – but he loved it so much, he built a copy at Harvard that is Sever Hall.”

Hobson was a prominent 19th century architect who designed a lot of buildings, so it was a shame the building did not receive the love and care it needed until construction began, she said.

While she doesn’t know if the workers will fix all of May Hall’s problems, Abbott Bennett said she hopes they’ll “improve the building’s integrity,” so it will last longer and need fewer repairs.

She said there is a giant hole in her office wall. Even though her office can be “damp” and “uncomfortable,” she has gotten used to it.

“But I love my spot – I don’t want to move,” she added. “I feel like if I move, then they’ll fix it, and I won’t get to live in this wonderful office anymore. 

“So, I’m just hoping it will get fixed sooner than later,” she said.

Abbott Bennett said while the noise can be distracting at times, it’s not much louder than the landscapers.

She said, “It all needs to get done and I think any minor inconveniences will be worth it in the long run.”

English Department Chair Lisa Eck said at least one office in the northwest corner of May Hall has had “significant water damage and falling plaster.”

She said she has not been affected by the noise, but knew one first-year writing instructor who cancelled class and reassigned what they were going to talk about for the following class.

Facilities acted quickly and the noise issue didn’t repeat itself, Eck said.

She added she’s thankful May Hall is getting the attention it deserves.

“May Hall is part of our story at Framingham State – it’s always been there,” she said.