Renovations to Tawes Hall were completed in December, ahead of schedule and in time for the American studies department to move to the building before the spring semester, said Bill Olen, capital projects director.

The $15.9 million project included the creation of six new classrooms, additional offices and a cafe. Four of the classrooms were completed Aug. 25, four months ahead of schedule, and the rest of the construction was finished by Dec. 14, a few weeks early, Olen said.

In order to make room for the new spaces, a theater, unused since the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center opened, was demolished, yielding about 29,000 gross square feet of new space, Olen said.

"It was a project that provided so many types of new spaces, from new classrooms to offices to space for other rooms," Olen said. "It's the biggest change from when people left in December."

The six new classrooms include two large tiered "Collaborative Lecture Halls" with about 115 seats each, according to the university provost's website. Four flat-floor collaborative classrooms were ready to be used during fall finals week, Olen said, adding that the additional classrooms constituted the majority of the project's costs.

The American studies department moved from Susquehanna Hall to the new offices in Tawes Hall on Jan. 11, Olen said.

The main office is in suite 1328, and there are additional offices for the department on the second and third floors of the building, according to department chair Psyche Williams-Forson.

"I've been on the campus for 20 years and in that time the department has moved five times. We are happy to have, as we see it, a permanent home," Williams-Forson said. "It maintains some of the beauty of the theater in terms of the structure, and I think it's going to be a really relaxing place for us to be."

Williams-Forson said the only challenge with the new space is the separated offices, as the department's space in Susquehanna Hall was all on the same floor.

The Tawes Hall renovation also includes space within the American studies department offices for a multipurpose room. American studies faculty, graduate students and U.S. Latina/o Studies Program faculty are all housed in the offices, Williams-Forson said.

The cafe, located on the second floor of the building, is expected to open at the end of March, Olen said, depending on Dining Services staffing.

"When it does open, it will be nice to get out of the offices and mix with the students, the English department faculty and the professional writing faculty," Williams-Forson said. "It makes for a nice meeting point."

Besides the major changes, the building also received a new elevator, new accessible bathrooms, and a new HVAC system, fire alarms and sprinklers, Olen said.

Julian Hammett, a senior electrical engineering major who is taking a film class in one of the new classrooms, praised the renovated space.

"It feels more open spatially, and the whole swivel action with the seats is really cool as well," Hammett said.