Facilities Moves Forward on Large Projects
Issue   |   Wed, 09/04/2013 - 10:20

The campus was bustling this summer as construction and design teams took over the campus, finishing up major projects before students flooded in for the new year.

The first of the major projects to be completed was Seligman Dormitory. As part of the residential master plan, which has it’s origins dating back to 2001 when the College put a plan in place to update or renovate all of the college dormitories and bring the freshman to the main quadrangle, Seligman Dormitory was renovated and expanded, doubling the bed capacity of the dormitory from 23 to 46.

“It was a particularly gratifying project because there was so much student input into that project,” said Jim Brassord, Director of Facilities. “We had conducted focus groups to review our previous projects and to take the lessons learned from those projects and apply them to Seligman. We are very excited about it in that we were able to retain more of the historic fabric of the building. It has resulted in a very warm and inviting and residential feel, which we think the students will appreciate.”

Facilities also focused on maintaining the architectural significance and historical significance of the building with the addition, ensuring that the addition was completely in sync with the existing structure.

“We have had good feedback from the community on that,” Brassord said. “The best feedback we can get is that it is indistinguishable from the original building. I think our architects did a nice job with that.”

Other features of the building include exposed wood ceilings and new lighting designed to create a more residential feel. The designers also listened to students concern about their ability to keep doors open, placing a magnetic hold near each door so students can decide whether to keep their rooms open or closed.

“Students we talked to felt having doors open creates a more social feel, and yet the current code requirement requires that the doors have an automatic closing feature,” Brassord said. “With the magnetic holds, students can choose to either keep their door closed or to keep it open. As you walk through the dorm and you get a much stronger sense of community by virtue of that. We are going to consider that feature in future projects.”

The second major project this summer was the renovation of Pratt Field. The project started in earnest last spring and is on schedule be completed by the first home football game on Sept. 28. In fact, the field and track are already in use, with the recreation building and press box the only things still under construction.

The final large project that is being finished up this summer was 79 South Pleasant Street. The building was acquired by the college in 2008. It originally served as the Baptist church for the local community, but over the years it had evolved into a commercial property.

“We bought it from the owners in 2008 with the intent of creating administrative space for the campus so that, through renovation of this building, we could create additional space on the core campus for faculty and classrooms. We have gone through a comprehensive renovation of this building, really being sensitive to it’s historic nature, and it should be completed in mid October,” Brassord said.

Several departments will be moving into the building, including Human Resources, Public Affairs, the Investments Office and the Five College World Language program.

Over the summer designers were also very busy, finalizing plans for the upcoming Power House renovations.

“We are happy to say that the detailed design is near completion. We are anticipating, if all goes according to plan, that we will start construction late fall. The full construction duration is still not known but if it goes according to plan it is possible we could be opening it up late in the spring semester,” Brassord said. “Conceptually it remains very consistent with what people saw in the spring.”

The Facilities Department is also preparing for the upcoming strategic planning project, which for them includes a campus assessment and framework plan that will play out in parallel with the broader strategic planning initiatives for the College. As a preliminary phase of that framework plan, they have been considering the site and conceptual design for the science center, and they plan to engage the faculty and staff and students in the upcoming months regarding the center before making a recommendation to the board in October. In order to put together informed plans, the planning architects have been traveling across the region, studying different science centers in terms of design and campus location.

“This summer has been a very busy summer for us as our planning architects have been working with us considering a wide range of alternatives and really assessing the campus,” Brassord said. “Those trips were extremely informative. The information is now being synthesized and what we hope to do is have an open meeting or a series of open outreach meetings with the campus community in mid-September at which point we will share some of the observations and conclusions about the various sites.”

The department is currently considering two sites, the east campus site, located where the social dorms currently stand, and the southeast site, located south of King and Wieland where there are now a group of pine trees.

“Of course we are considering the fate of the social dorms. The social dorms, if the science building is on east campus, will have to be an enabling first stage project that will enable the science center to be built,” Brassord said. “We are also, as part of this framework plan, looking at different sites for replacement dorms and considering the program and topography of the dorms.”

There are a number of sites under consideration right now. One would be south of Merrill science center and McGuire, where the current temporary dorms and tennis lot parking stand. The other would be at the southeast site of the campus, south of King and Wieland.

“There are also some perimeter sites that are available. But the focus is more on the core campus if possible,” Brassord said.
As the summer projects wrap up the Facilities department prepares for the strategic planning the college will undergo in the next year and looks forwards to the projects that will emerge from those studies.