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New atrium to begin rising from tragedy at Columbine

By Trent Seibert
Denver Post Staff Writer

May 29 - Jeff Mack's toughest job begins Tuesday.

That's when Turner Construction begins to replace the Columbine High School library with a two-story atrium and prepares to build a new library onto the northwest corner of the school.

"This is the most important project we're going to be undertaking," said Mack, manager of business development for Turner Construction.

And that is saying a lot, since Turner Construction is building the new Bronco stadium, and has projects such as downtown's 17th Street Plaza and the Lockheed Martin building on its resume.

But it's more than simply the scrutiny from the public and from the families of the students killed or hurt in the library during last year's massacre that will make it difficult for Mack.

For example, he will never forget the roses.

On a recent visit to the library to make preparations for the construction, Mack saw 10 roses, apparently placed where the 10 students were murdered last year.

The flowers lay in stark contrast to the room, from which all the books, shelves and furniture had been removed.

"That was emotional for me to see that," he said.

Mack also has met with many of the victims' families.

"I don't even pretend to know what these people are going through," he said.

Turner Construction's Columbine project is actually two projects: First, the company will remove the floor of the school library to create a two-story atrium complete with track lighting, a tree-filled mural and faux clouds hanging from the ceiling.

That must be completed by Aug. 14, when students return to school. Otherwise, they will have no place to eat lunch. The cafeteria is directly beneath the library, and will become the bottom of the atrium.

"We can't spare a half a day of down time," Mack said.

Construction on the new library will begin in August or September, Mack said. Its doors will likely open by January 2001.

The new library will be a 14,000-square-foot, one-story building, featuring an expansive view.

"It will have a wonderful view of the mountains," Mack said.

Students also will be able to view the latest technology when the doors open.

The library has been designed with "docks" where laptop computers can be checked out, much like reference material. Students can take those computers to small study areas that will be built in the library.

"There will be a lot of neat gadgets," Mack said.

Some library design details are still being developed and more information about the new library's look was not available.

The atrium and new library were made possible by the fundraising efforts of HOPE, or the Healing of People Everywhere, a group of victims' families that raised $3.1 million for the job.

Turner is donating the labor. So are many of the 25 subcontractors who will be working on the project.

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