(WBIR - Knoxville) In the race for more space, construction crews have begun work on a currently-vacant University of Tennessee building.

Sophronia Strong Hall will undergo a two-year, $114 million renovation project, which the university said is the first major step in addressing the university's need for more general classroom and laboratory space in the 268,000 sq ft building.

When construction finishes, the building will be home to the anthropology, earth science and planetary science departments. UT also said it will also give the biology and chemistry departments critical lab space, which it said will help promote collaboration.

The state of Tennessee budgeted $75 million in the budget this year for the project. UT will fund the rest of the cost.

This new project begins as UT continues to work on constructing a new 220,000 sq. ft. classroom and lab building along 13th St. and Cumberland Ave.

A recent master plan by the university in 2011 revealed UT needed an additional 870,000 sq ft just to accommodate its current enrollment.

Strong Hall had been a female-only residence hall on campus from the time it was built in 1925 until is was closed in 2008. UT said the renovations would preserve some of the building's original structure, including its distinctive front arches, the front stone wall, and the footbridge that crosses Cumberland Avenue.

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