UA approves demolition of Harris Hall, former Alpha Gam house

Grace Schepis | @GraceSchepisCW, Staff Writer

Harris Hall, a traditional-style residence building on Colonial Drive, and the former Alpha Gamma Delta house will be demolished following a UA board of trustees vote on Nov 5. 

The $955,000 project funded by the University Central Reserves, will allow for the construction of the Fashion and Design Building, as well as a new sorority house. 

Harris Hall 

Harris Hall, built in 1939, currently houses co-ed residents. Demolishing the building will save the University an annual $221,481 in operating and maintenance costs. It will also eliminate more than $5.2 million in estimated deferred maintenance liability, not including the costs for updates to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Aaron Wilkes, a master’s of public administration student and the community director for Harris Hall, is sad to see one of the few traditional-style dorms on campus go. 

“I love my building,” Wilkes said. “I love the community. I believe that the traditional dorm experience is a very valuable one.”

The demolition of Harris will leave 200 fewer residence spaces despite the overflow of on-campus housing that led to the acquisition of off-campus apartments this fall. 

All reusable equipment will be removed from the structures ahead of demolition. Bricks from Harris Hall will be reused elsewhere on campus. 

Fashion and Design Building

The new building will feature exhibition galleries, a studio and an outdoor terrace in addition to classrooms and office spaces.

According to a packet provided to board members for review, the Fashion and Design Building will “provide for growth within the College of Human and Environmental Sciences.” 

Shirley Foster, chair of the Department of Clothing, Textiles and Interior Design, looks forward to the opportunities this new building can bring. 

In a very short time Dr. [Marcy] Koontz, [faculty curator of clothing and textiles], has taken an historic costume collection and created the Fashion Archive, a world-class, curated entity that is followed on social media by the costume curators at the Met in New York and other important museum fashion collections,” Foster said. 

This new building will hold materials for storage, conservation and exhibition of the Fashion Archive’s collection. There are also plans for graduate certificates to be offered in fashion collection management, with students already attracted to the program. 

“Our department is extremely grateful for the investment in the Fashion Archive’s future,” Foster said. “The building will provide undergraduate and graduate opportunities for study, lab conservation work and display. Our apparel design students have already benefited. Our dean, Stuart Usdan, is putting an enormous amount of work into making sure our new facility will be state-of-the-art and something of which to be proud.”

New Sorority House

The Alpha Gamma Delta sorority moved out of its former chapter house in 2012. The house, which was built in 1960, had been used in the last year to house on-campus students who tested positive for COVID-19. 

The demolition will create room for a new sorority house “to accommodate growth in the Greek System and a chapter house that allows the sorority to be competitive in recruitment.” 

The sorority that will occupy the house is currently unknown. 

“The available site created by the demolition will also provide a new sorority house to accommodate growth in the Greek system and a chapter house that allows the sorority to be competitive in recruitment by providing a modern and similar facility to other chapters,” the packet said.

Questions? Email the News desk at newsdesk@cw.ua.edu.