Plant Hall Upgrades to Preserve History

From 1891 until 1932, Plant Hall operated as a hotel; in 1933 it became the University of Tampa.

So how does a building that’s 117 years old maintain its original aesthetics while meeting the ever changing demands of UT’s students and increasing technology?

Twenty years ago the Tampa Bay Advisory committee, which is made up of community leaders and museum workers interested in preservation came up with a master plan for the building.

If any change needs to be made to Plant Hall’s original structure, the master plan is referenced to make sure the original feel of the building is maintained.

‘There are areas of the building that are high priority for authenticity,’ said Cynthia Gandee, executive director of Plant Hall museum for over 20 years.

‘The rooms on the first floor are highest priority in keeping with the buildings 1891 structure. We have to keep the buildings authenticity while still attracting new students,’ said Gandee.

However, attracting new students to such an old building can be a daunting task when technology is increasing on a daily basis. Factors such as Internet use, WiFi instillation and air conditioning have to be taken into account when keeping the building up to date.

‘Wireless technology is becoming less and less obtrusive which will allow for fewer parts of the building’s structure to be tampered with,’ said Ken Garcia of Abell-Garcia Architects.

Abell-Garcia Architects have been involved in keeping Plant Hall up-to-date over the years.

Much of the wiring in Plant Hall is done through strategically placed entry points so that exposed conduits aren’t placed on exterior walls. Pipes are placed under existing floors and closets which run throughout the building.

‘The biggest challenge is always how do you air condition a historic structure?,” said Garcia. Existing air conditioning units are being removed which will hopefully make way for a central air conditioning system that will benefit the building year round.

The removal of old air conditioning units and the moving of sprinkler heads from the ceiling to other locations will contribute to the more authentic look of the building, while keeping up with more advanced technological innovations.

‘Slowly but surely we’re restoring windows, reappointing bricks and adding new paint colors,’ said Garcia.

The needs of handicapped students have also been addressed with the addition of an electronic ramp to the men’s bathroom. The elevator can also be used for special occasions, although it requires an attendant.

In the future, students can look forward to a building that looks aesthetically appealing while meeting their educational needs through advances in technology and innovative ideas.

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