Construction on Dahlgren Chapel will begin this week, kicking off a major renovation project that is expected to last two years.

The restoration, which has been planned for several years, will address water damage to the chapel’s foundation and make improvements to its interior.  The chapel is expected to remain open during most of the project, but will be closed weekdays for short periods to facilitate the interior work.

“We have arranged the project so that we rarely have to close the chapel,” said Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., executive director for mission and ministry, adding that the closures would last a matter of days.

Foundational repairs and waterproofing are scheduled to be completed first, followed by the interior work, which will include the removal of the chapel’s stained glass windows to protect them during construction. The windows — including the chapel’s rose window, which has already been removed — will be refurbished and reinstalled after the renovations are complete.

Interior work will include new seating for the chapel, improvements to the altar, sound and lighting, and a possible shift of the tabernacle to a new location, O’Brien said.

Fr. Phillip Boroughs, S.J., former vice president for mission and ministry, first told The Hoya about plans to renovate the chapel in March.  Concerns about the building began after falling plaster led the university to temporarily close the chapel in the fall of 2007. Two years later, the rose window was removed to protect the glass after the walls around the window were found to be bowed, leading to an investigation of the chapel’s structural integrity.

“We’re able to begin now because we have enough funding to begin,” O’Brien said.

The project is being funded by alumni donors, who will be announced at the official launch of the project in October.  O’Brien said the total cost of the renovation is still unknown, but the university will continue to solicit donations with the hope that gifts will cover the entire cost of construction.

While the quadrangle will also remain open during the repairs, a decorative fence will be constructed around the chapel to protect pedestrians and is expected to remain in place throughout the project, according to an email sent to students Thursday by O’Brien and Karen Frank, vice president for housing and facilities.

“While we understand that this work may cause inconvenience at times, we know that the greater disruption and risk is not to attend to this repair and preservation,” the letter said.

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