The Citadel is planning to demolish Capers Hall, one of the most utilized academic buildings on campus, next year and replace it with a more modern facility.
About 75% of all cadets take courses in Capers Hall because many of the school’s general education requirements are taught in that building, according to Retired Air Force Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for The Citadel. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences is also housed in Capers Hall.
“The building is really kind of well beyond expectations with regard to its service,” Dorrian said.
“It’s been around since the early ’50s, and we’re beginning to have to extend a tremendous amount of money to maintain it because a lot of the structural elements of the building are falling into disrepair.”
The Citadel initially looked at trying to preserve the facade of Capers Hall, but Dorrian said that turned out to be “exorbitantly expensive,” and because Capers Hall doesn’t have many historic elements, the school decided it wasn’t worth the cost.
Replacing Capers Hall will allow the college to substantially improve the services it offers, Dorrian said, with an additional 30,000 square feet, updated pedagogical tools and a 250-seat performing arts auditorium.
“When this building was built, we were in the 1,700- or 1,800-cadet range,” Dorrian said. “And now we’re at 2,300 to 2,400, and so that additional square footage enables us to teach the general ed requirements to our very large student population.”
The new building, temporarily known as the Academic Replacement Building, will conform to seismic code, which Capers Hall does not, and provide better flood protection than Capers Hall does.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Jeff Lamberson, vice president of facilities and engineering for the school, said that although it’ll be a new building, the architecture will fit in with the rest of The Citadel’s campus.
“So it will be built with these new modern features, but it’s going to look very consistent with the overall feel of the campus,” he said.
Dorrian said one of the things that faculty, staff and students are most excited about with the Academic Replacement Building is the performing arts auditorium, something The Citadel currently does not have.
“It’s not going to be just a 250-seat auditorium, if you will,” he said. “It’ll be set up for performing arts events. So we’re pretty excited about that and hope it’s a real addition to the local community and the city.”
Demolition of Capers Hall was initially rejected by Charleston’s Board of Architecture Review, but The Citadel and the city reached a settlement agreement in March after the school appealed the board’s decision.
District 10 Councilman Harry Griffin, a Citadel alumnus, said he’s glad to see his alma mater investing in new buildings.
“When I walked through it (Capers Hall) … for the first time, I felt like I’d jumped in a time ship and gone back to the 1950s or ’40s,” he said. “Everything in there is very old, antiquated. Yes, I can understand the historical significance, however this supposed to be an institution of higher learning.”
District 3 Councilman Jason Sakran, whose district includes part of The Citadel’s campus, said he believes the Academic Replacement Building fits with the school’s vision of being a part of the community.
District 6 Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, whose district also includes a portion of campus, agreed and said he has heard no opposition from the community.
“I’m looking forward to seeing this building built,” Sakran said.
Construction is slated to begin in May 2021, with the Academic Replacement Building to open to cadets in August 2023.
The budget for the project is $67 million, with construction budgeted at $50 million. The other funds will go toward demolishing Capers Hall and purchasing furniture and equipment for the Academic Replacement Building.
While construction is underway, courses normally taught in Capers Hall will be distributed to other buildings that have extra meeting or classroom space. The Citadel also plans to rent up to 10 mobile classrooms.
Construction won’t begin until after Bastin Hall, the new home of the Victoria and Tommy Baker School of Business, is complete, so Lamberson said part of the plan involves utilizing space created by that project.
“That project is going to give us some additional classroom space so our business department can move in there,” Lamberson said. “And the facilities that they vacate, we’ll be able to repurpose as we go into this interim period for Capers Hall.”
This story originally appeared in the May 4, 2020, print edition of the Charleston Regional Business Journal.t