The iconic but structurally flawed CLA Tower and adjoining Registration section will be demolished this summer to pave the way for a multi-use green space for the campus community, putting to best use land sitting atop an earthquake fault that makes future construction on the site unfeasible.
The removal of the tower is scheduled to begin in late May after Commencement and be completed by mid-August before the start of the fall semester. The site will then undergo a transformation into a green space and outdoor sitting and studying areas.
The university considered numerous options for the building before concluding that its removal would be in the best interests of the campus – for safety and financial reasons.
Being situated on an earthquake fault is just one of the issues that have plagued the tower: The building has construction flaws, mechanical system problems and was not energy efficient. In addition, maintaining an empty building is a financial burden, requiring utilities, an operating fire suppression system, security, custodial services, and other campus resources.
Retrofitting the building is not fiscally feasible because the costs are prohibitive. Also, repairs to the building would not eliminate the hazard posed by the earthquake fault.
“The demolition of the building represents the best option from both a financial perspective and a safety standpoint,” said Aaron Klemm, senior associate vice president of Facilities Planning & Management (FP&M). “Being good stewards of the campus means making decisions based on what offers the most benefit to future generations of students.”
The obelisk-like tower won’t come down with a bang like many building demolitions. Instead, the contractor will use a crane and grabbing excavator to bring the tower down almost brick by brick. This process will produce less noise and cause fewer disruptions to nearby classrooms and offices, and protect the Aratani Japanese Garden.
Before the tear-down begins, unsalvageable equipment and furniture that were left behind after the transition to the Student Services Building will be removed. The process is scheduled to start in mid-March and continue through the middle of May.
Faculty and staff members who have offices in the classroom side of the CLA building will be temporarily relocated during the demolition phase for safety and noise considerations. Summer session classes that were scheduled to be held in the CLA Classroom section will be moved to other buildings. The Paseo in the Classroom section also will be closed because of its proximity to the demolition area.
The Public Health Testing Site for COVID-19 in the CLA Paseo is expected to remain in operation through late May.
During the tear-down, the Aratani Japanese Garden will be covered and protected from dust and debris, and koi experts will offer guidance to protect and minimize the impact to the fish. The Japanese Garden will be restored and is expected to be reopened by the start of 2023.
To preserve the garden as well as the building’s basement, which houses IT systems, the contractor will use a grabbing excavator to bring down the tower. This less destructive method also will safeguard electrical and water lines in the basement that feed into the adjacent building.
In addition to the sentimental value of the structure, there is a time capsule embedded into one of the walls. A relocation site for the time capsule is under discussion.
Depending on efforts to manage the budget and ensure safety of the remaining buildings, the replacement landscaping or open area may be deferred to a future phase. FP&M aims to maximize the remaining funding to create comfortable outdoor gathering spaces.
Pedestrian traffic will be re-routed around the demolition area and wayfinding and construction signs will be placed at key points from nearby parking lots.
The nearly 54,000-square-foot CLA Tower and the 36,000-square-foot Registration section were constructed as part of the CLA complex that broke ground in March 1990 and was completed two years later. Before the Tower and Registration sections were shuttered in 2018, the buildings had taxed operational budgets and personnel because of construction flaws and mechanical system failures.