Published: Nov. 8, 2023

As part of the consent agenda at its regular meeting held at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs this week, the University of Colorado Board of Regents approved a $14.3 million restoration of Old Main, including structural, site and sustainability upgrades that help ensure CU Boulder’s first building can continue its rich legacy of supporting student success for decades to come.

In case you missed it

Aug. 30: Old Main bee hives said to have been 80 years old

Located on the historic Norlin Quadrangle and constructed just before Colorado became a state in 1876, Old Main originally housed the library, classrooms and the president’s family home. It is currently home to the Chapel Theatre, administrative offices for the College of Arts and Sciences and the CU Heritage Center, which has been temporarily moved in preparation for this work. During the renovations, all other building occupants will be temporarily relocated as well.

Restoration efforts will primarily include window and door restoration replacements, structural and facade repairs and site work upgrades adjacent to Old Main to improve storm drainage and landscaping, as well as improvements to Pleasant Street that make it more safe and pedestrian friendly. The work includes replacing about 10% of the building’s outer brick as well as repairing the foundation and sandstone detailing.

Supporting campus sustainability efforts

The restorations to Old Main align with campus sustainability efforts to decrease the carbon footprint of aging buildings, with multiple aspects of the project aimed at improving the building’s energy efficiency. Sustainability related upgrades include:

  • Restoring and repairing windows to improve energy efficiency, reduce summertime heat gain with new energy efficient glazing and limit air infiltration.
  • Reinstating operable upper and lower window sashes, as originally designed, for improved occupant comfort.
  • Repairing and replacing doors to improve thermal performance and reduce air infiltration.
  • Installing more efficient LED lighting where replacement is necessary.
  • Installing new landscaping that will reduce irrigation demand.

Restoration will also ensure use of the building for another 100 to 150 years, avoiding embodied carbon emissions that would be created if the building were to be replaced.

Cost and schedule

Sources of funding for the project include campus cash primarily derived from funds set aside by the campus for facilities deferred maintenance. 

Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2024, and the building is expected to reopen in May 2025. 

Preserving our legacy

Project manager David Byrne Jr. said that while the primary goal is to conduct stabilization and structural repairs and make the building safe for continued occupancy, the project means much more to campus than bricks and mortar.

“Old Main is one of our most recognized buildings on campus and a living testament to our university's enduring legacy,” Byrne said. “Generations of students have walked through these doors. With this preservation effort, we ensure that Old Main remains a living link to our university's rich history, offering a tangible connection between the aspirations of those who walked these halls in the past and the dreams of the generations to come.”

For updates on the restoration process, visit the Old Main project website.