January 30, 2014
All morning long chainsaws were going to remove the seven large magnolia trees that surround the Rotunda at the University of Virginia.
This is just the first step of many to come as the university begins the second phase of a $50 million renovation project.
“One of the big pieces of the renovation is the installation of an underground room in the east courtyard of the rotunda here,” says University Spokesperson McGregor McCance.
The underground room will house mechanical and electrical equipment needed to bring the rotunda into the 21st century.
UVa historians also believe that this is necessary to remove the magnolias that have been there for nearly a century, because they clouded part of the Rotunda's beauty.
“They're covering up the best part of the Rotunda,” says Coy Barefoot, UVa historian. “That building is round and you can't see the rounded walls because they are hidden.”
Tree experts also determined that the magnolias were at the end of their natural lives and that some were in poor condition.
“It's obviously going to be a little disruptive for a couple of years, but in the long term it will be great because the building will be newer and fresher and better for the university,” says Arushi Kumar, graduate student at UVa.
“I just want to do whatever we need to do to get the rotunda fixed because I want to walk down the lawn when I graduate,” says David Rapp, second year at the university.
The majority of students understand the changes, but there are some that are upset by the cutting down of the trees.
“I think of UVA as a beautiful campus with mature old trees and just manicured lawns and I'm actually very partial to magnolia trees and I think it's very sad,” says Jane Cashin, who was visiting grounds with her family.
The university understands that change is difficult to see.
“The changes that they have in store for this new rotunda are truly stunning,” says Barefoot.
The renovations to the rotunda will take two years to complete, but by 2016 there will be new life to this historic building.