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College makes progress on multiple construction projects

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On Wednesday, Sept. 6, members of the college administration held a press briefing to address recent and ongoing construction projects on campus.

The briefing focused on six major projects, which included renovations to existing buildings and spaces as well as the construction of new buildings or the repurposing of old ones.

This past summer, Papazian Hall was torn down to make room for its replacement, a new building slated for completion in 2020 that will be named the Biology, Engineering, and Psychology (BEP) building. According to material prepared by the office of Vice President of Finance & Administration Greg Brown, BEP will serve as an interdisciplinary space to strengthen connections between academic departments across campus.

While construction will be performed year-round over the next three years, Brown said the college aims for the work to be as least invasive as possible.

“We try to do things as quickly as possible and we try to do the busiest and noisiest work in the summer months when [students are] not here,” Brown said.

In the final phase of the building’s construction, Hicks Hall will come down while the faculty offices and common spaces of the new building will inhabit Hicks’ footprint.

Whittier Hall opened in spring 2017 as a tentative placeholder for BEP while it is under construction. It presently houses psychology department offices as well as the engineering shop, though after the opening of BEP, it will transition to its designated use as a studio space for the art department.

“It is a very flexibly designed building so that it can fulfill multiple purposes over time,” Brown said.

Whittier is one of the first buildings on campus to adhere to the college’s new sustainability framework. It includes a variety of features such as solar power, aggressive storm water management, ground source heating and cooling, and a high-performing envelope.

Along with academic buildings, the PPR Apartment construction project, initially slated for completion before the start of the fall semester, was delayed by 6-8 weeks due to a failed steel subcontractor. According to Brown, the project remains under budget despite delay.

“There are a few things that still have yet to be finished and we are working on those,” said Brown. He noted that the furniture that will be in the living rooms has been back-ordered, and that the building is still being commissioned.

The apartments are also designed to have a variety of sustainability features. In the construction of the building, the baseball outfield was dug up and then replaced again in order to put in a geothermal well field. In addition, the rooftops have easily identifiable solar panels.

“They’re probably the most obvious solar panels on campus,” observed Brown. “One of the things we try to do in our construction is think about the educational component, so being able to see the solar panels I think reminds everybody that we’re actually committed to sustainability and we’re working on it.”

Several renovations were performed in Palmer and Pittenger over this past summer, such as bathroom renovations. In addition, a link is being built between the two buildings that will be accessible from the courtyard by a ramp.

ADA Program Coordinator Susan Smythe noted that the project was not completed in conjunction with the opening of the apartments so that construction efforts could be focused on the more extensive project.

“We made the triage decision to finish New PPR rather than keep the link on the same schedule. We’re now putting full attention over there,” said Smythe.

Sproul Hall is in the process of being repurposed into a shared space for the Intercultural Center, religious and spiritual life, and International Student Services. It will be renamed the Hormel-Nguyen Intercultural Center after the two alumni donors who financed its renovation.

“From the Deans’ office and the college’s perspective, we think this is going to be a wonderful way for students to get together and really so that there can be cross group communication and collaboration,” said Brown.

The telescope also came out of the roof this summer, and was donated to Supporting STEM and Space Inc. to be relocated to a community in Northwest Arkansas.

Janet Semler, the Director of Capital Planning & Project Management, believed that the repurposing of the telescope would inspire the members of the Arkansas community.

“It [ignites] all these young people’s interest in astronomy, and that’s what makes it so cool, that they’re using it as an educational tool,” said Semler.

Swarthmore’s recent renovations and ongoing construction projects will create new spaces for the campus community and in some cases bring new purpose to old ones.

Construction for new apartments causes move-in delays

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Students slated for early move-in to the new PPR apartments will have to wait an extra week to be given access to the new dorm.

Fifteen students were scheduled to move into new PPR on Saturday, August 19. Isaiah Thomas, Assistant Director of Residential Communities, said the new apartments are now scheduled to open on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Early arrival students who are approved and scheduled to arrive to campus before that day will live in temporary housing near the apartments until the 26th. We have already been communicating directly with those students affected,” Thomas said.  

Clare Perez ’19 was one of the students impacted by this change. Perez, who lives in Chicago, was contacted on Monday, Aug. 14 that she would be living in Palmer until new PPR is available. She found the news exasperating.

“They should have known which students/rooms were being moved into earlier, and focused on finishing those first. I don’t live near Swarthmore at all and therefore will have all my things with me on the early move-in date.  Further, they put me on the third floor of a building with no elevator, so I have to move all my things up … only to move them back down and across to another dorm one week later,” Perez said.

Shivani Chinappan ’19, another early move-in student, was concerned by the timing of the date change notice.

“I think it’s mainly just really inconvenient to have to move in two separate times, especially for people traveling far who had to make arrangements to move their things. More time to prepare would have been nice, [five] days before people move in is extremely short notice.”

Thomas says most of the remaining work is focused on the exterior and the terrace.

The bulk of the work on the interior of the apartments is complete.  Some of the furniture that will be in all individual apartment common area living room spaces is scheduled to be placed in mid-September. All bedroom/dining furniture will be in place when students move in,” she said.  

Although the apartments are slated for move-in on August 26, renovations to the buildings will continue well into the fall semester.

The pathways and exterior lighting, interior and exterior cleaning of windows, and renovations to the baseball field will continue for a couple of weeks. There may be final adjustments in individual suites which will be scheduled in advance with residents. All work in the building should be completed around October 1,” Thomas said. The Arboretum staff will also be planting green spaces as well as the roof terraces throughout the fall. Palmer, the building in which the affected students will be temporarily living, has also recently undergone renovations along with Pittenger.

Both Thomas and Susan Smythe of Facilities are optimistic about the new living situations.

We think students will be very pleased with how the building has turned out and we appreciate students’ patience as we put the finishing touches in place,” they said.

Regardless of how long the construction takes, it will be a significant presence for students living in or near new PPR. The Phoenix will continue to follow the ongoing renovations to the apartments as well as other structures on campus in our first issue. 

BEP construction to begin over the summer

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When students return to campus in the fall things in the Northeast part of campus will look quite different. Construction on the Biology Engineering and Psychology Building will begin this summer with the demolition of Papazian Hall, which will start a game of musical chairs where departments will hoping buildings as construction is completed.

In preparation for the demolition of Papazian Hall this summer, the Psychology Department and some of the Engineering Department’s shops will move in May to the newly completed Whittier Hall, behind the Lang Center on Whittier Place,” said Jan Semler, Director of Capital Planning and Project Management.

Semler stressed that the BEP shows the college’s commitment to interdisciplinary programs and the college’s unique integration of engineering into the liberal arts curriculum.

“The three departments have outgrown their space in Martin Biological Laboratory, Hicks Hall, and Papazian Hall, respectively. Despite periodic capital investments in the existing buildings, all three departments need new space to meet their curricular needs and the research interests of the faculty,” said Semler.

The building will replace Hicks and Papazian Halls and will be finished in 2020, with part of the building, hosting the entirety of the engineering department and parts of the psychology and biology departments, opening in 2019.

“Hicks and papazian have a lot of historical significance so their destruction does sadden me. However, I’m more upset that the BEP building won’t be completed  until we are long gone. The addition of a large common space near the center of campus will help to alleviate the current overload on sci and kohlberg,” said Max Barry ’19 who is double majoring in engineering and art, “The construction will also allow for the, much needed, expansion of the CS department. There is definitely a need for a community makerspace open to all students and the addition of a new engineering building will foster that need.”

In addition to the new lab and classroom spaces the building will also add the John W. Nason Garden and terrace.

“[The terrace] will [provide] shaded seating for informal gatherings, outdoor study and relaxation. A grill area at the edge of the garden is expected to become a popular gathering spot for faculty, staff and students in BEP, Beardsley, Pearson, and Trotter Halls,” said Semler.

The destruction of Pappazian this summer and Hicks following may put classroom pressure on other near by buildings such as Beardsley which hosts the Art and Art History departments.

Despite the increased pressure the building may see on classroom space Barry believes that having more people in the building may benefit the departments.

“I think the exposure to student art that is frequently displayed in Beardsley will be a positive effect of any classes that are moved into the building while BEP is constructed,” said Barry.

After the BEP is completed the Art department will move to Whittier Hall and philosophy will move into Beardsley.

Overcrowding causes concern on campus

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The college has been gradually increasing the size of the student body population over the past five years. The increasing number of students presents the potential issue of overcrowded spaces on campus, especially in regards to dining and studying spaces. Students are concerned that the larger student body is straining the college’s spaces and services.

Dean of Students Elizabeth Braun said that the growth of the student body is part of the college’s strategic plan. In the last five years, the college has added 100 students to the student population, and it plans to add 100 more in the next five years.

“Over the last five years, the college has increased in size by 100 students,” said Braun. “This growth was outlined as part of the strategic plan that was completed in 2010-2011. That plan called for Swarthmore to increase by a total of 200 students over the course of 10 years.  We will be continuing to evaluate and assess timing, pacing, and implementation of continued student growth.”   

Sharples has difficulty running efficiently during peak meal hours, causing many students frustration. Due to the large number of classes that end simultaneously, a lunch rush generally occurs at around 12:30. Although peak meal hours have always been crowded at Sharples students have expressed concern that the dining hall is more crowded than ever this year.

“I was surprised because I’ve never seen so many people,” said Xena Wang ’19. “Last year, maybe because there were fewer people or because I went at more opportune times, I felt like there was always somewhere to sit. But now, I feel like, during peak hours, you can’t really find anywhere without being crowded,” said Wang.

Linda McDougall, head of dining services, discussed how Sharples has worked to increase capacity and meet student needs. McDougal said that the Sharples to-go option greatly reduced crowding, and incremental increases in staffing have helped to keep Sharples running smoothly. Furthermore, she stated that increased seating has been added within the dining hall, and Sharples has increased its capacity to provide for students.

“We added some new tables this past summer, which has increased our seating capacity,” said McDougal. “This is a two phase process, which will commence this coming summer and will transition all the tables and chairs. I believe, at that point, we will have reached our maximum capacity.  I truly have not heard any complaints, to date, about the lack of seating when students come for meals.”

Some students, such as Wang, will avoid going to Sharples at peak meal hours altogether in order to avoid fighting through the crowds. Because she gets out of class at 12:30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays Wang avoids the peak meal time  overcrowding in Sharples, and she tries to go to the Ville or the Science Center instead.

“On Tuesday and Thursday, I don’t bother going to Sharples because I know it will be crowded, because that’s when everyone gets out ,” said Wang, describing the necessity of intentional planning of meals to compensate for overcrowded dining options.

McDougal described how the addition of Sharples to-go and the expansion of the meal plan to include Ville Points has decreased the crowding at peak meal times. Although many students have voiced complaints about Sharples overcrowding, McDougal claims that the diversity of dining options under the new meal plan leads to fewer students coming into Sharples and decreases the lunch rush.

“I do not feel as if we are any more crowded during peak hours as we have been in the past,” said McDougal. “I feel, with the addition of take out as well as additional points and the grab ’n go options, that the counts are about the same and sometimes a little less than in the past.”

Although these additions have been positively received by the student body, many students believe that they haven’t eliminated the problems associated with Sharples. Wang shared her appreciation for the increased diversity of dining options while pointing out that problems remain with Sharples and the campus dining experience.

“I think people don’t realize they can explore other options with this new meal plan. Now, it’s a lot easier to go to other places because, if I see that Sharples is really crowded, I can go somewhere else,” said Wang. “Last year, Sharples was the only option, so I’m not really disappointed … but I think Sharples is over its capacity.”

As part of its strategic plan, the college is working to renovate and expand many buildings and services on campus. Provost Thomas Stephenson identified the need to increase academic spaces on campus as one of the key concerns of the college, especially in light of the increasing population. The college is currently planning out the construction of a new Biology, Engineering, and Psychology  building. This construction will create new academic spaces  for these departments as well as free up spaces, such as Martin Hall, to be renovated and used by other departments.

“This new facility will provide new labs for these three departments as well as space for the expansion of each,” said Stephenson.  “There will also be a common space that will enhance opportunities for interdisciplinary connections between the departments, and that will serve as a new gathering area for the Trotter – Pearson – BEP – Kohlberg quad that will be formed around the Nason garden.”

Several renovations are underway to cope with the growing student body. The Human Resources Department will be moving out of Pearson Hall, so it can be converted into a full academic building. Over the summer, the former bookstore space of Clothier was converted into a computer science lab, and spaces in Beardsley and Old Tarble were renovated as studio art space. Furthermore, Cornell first was redone in order  to increase the quality and capacity of student study space. These changes are part of a push to expand and improve campus space.

“We are also currently building the new residence hall, which will add 120 beds and open in the Fall of 2017; the Whittier Place building and the Biology, Engineering, Psychology building,” said Braun. “The Sproul expansion of the Intercultural Center will help accommodate the growth of students engaged in the Intercultural Center, the Interfaith Center, and International students.”

Despite the renovations and construction projects planned by administration, students remain concerned about the current overcrowding of spaces on campus. Beyond Sharples, the Science Center is seen as overcrowded by many students. These concerns are especially strong in respect to the coffee bar. Because of the tight turnaround time between classes, a long line at the coffee bar can be problematic. Daniel Lai ’17 discussed how the increasingly long line causing difficulties with getting to class on time.

“During my four years at Swarthmore, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Science Center coffee bar line this long between classes,” said Lai. “It’s hard to wait on line to get things without being late to your next class.”

In addition to complaints about the coffee bar line, students have also expressed frustration with how crowded certain academic buildings and study spaces get on campus. Science Center is a popular spot for students to study throughout the day, but the number of people going there often makes it difficult to find study spots. Even with the recent renovations, Cornell has become very crowded, making it difficult for students to study there.

“It’s very hard to find a spot in Science Center to study during the day,” said Lai. “While I do love the recent renovations to Cornell first and the additional study space that has been created, I don’t feel as though it is enough to address the overcrowding of good study spaces during peak hours.”

Although the college is working to expand campus spaces, the steady growth of the student body and the overcrowding of current spaces continues to be a concern for students.

 

New PPR Construction Continues; Student Feedback Requested

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In response to students’ inquiries about the construction of the New PPR (NPPR) dorm currently underway, Susan Smythe from Facilities Management held an information and Q&A session in Palmer Lounge Sunday night on how the project is developing. The few dozen attendees enjoyed snacks and could view the anticipated layout of NPPR on two posters behind Smythe. She described the vision the college had for the new living spaces and discussed with students their experiences and concerns of presently living next to the construction.

The entire building is expected to be completed in time for the 2016-2017 academic year.

“This time next year, people will be in it,” Smythe said.

Smythe first described the design of NPPR. The housing, located behind Palmer, Pittenger, and Roberts (PPR) dorms, will consist of three connected and cube-shaped buildings, labeled A, B, and C. Building B, linked to the other two, will have an elevator as well as a basement. Current construction is mainly preparing for this basement, which Smythe described is some of the most arduous work to be done. The space between the old and new buildings will become an open quad. The new spaces will hold common areas on the ground floor with large study lounges. Many rooms will have air conditioning, but it is not guaranteed throughout the whole dorm. The buildings will have windows with furnished terraces facing the baseball field. A student garden will be maintained adjacent to the buildings, and indoor bike storage will be available. NPPR will also be accessible with Onecard.

As for living arrangements, NPPR will hold 120 rooms arranged of suites. Building A suites will be confined to about five to six students, and building B will have about ten people on each of two floors. The bedrooms will have a desk and wardrobe and, as singles, may be smaller than other rooms on campus, in turn for more community space. Suite spaces will have a sofa, tables, chairs, and room for students to bring their own furniture if they wish. Like PPR, these dorms will be reserved mostly for upperclassmen.

NPPR is being developed with the college’s sustainability framework in mind. Water will be heated through solar energy. Some of the building is expected to run on solar electricity. Ground source heat pumps will be geothermal. Rainwater will also be collected for toilet water and flushing.

Smythe told students that the project is currently on schedule, but that delays are possible.

“We’re hoping we’ll be done [with construction] mid-July next year, so we’ll have time to move furniture in,” she said. “The schedule is a little tight, but is very closely monitored.”

Along with being informative, she stressed the importance of being transparent about the process and encouraged students to communicate comments and concerns.

After her presentation, Smythe opened the floor to questions. Conversation about the anticipation for the new future living options and also about living next to the ongoing construction ensued between students and the facilitator.

Smythe informed students that construction should start at 8 a.m. every work morning.

“If you see that or hear that not being the case, please let me know that,” she stressed, and apologized in advance for any rare occurrences of noise pollution. Smythe suggested students email her directly as soon as whatever construction-related disturbance happens. She noted that she communicates with the workers frequently throughout the day and he explained the value of having an open dialogue between students, workers and faculty leading the project.

“You’re also kind of eyes and ears for this project … and you can be a good source of information for us.”

Smythe also asked how she could update those living in PPR on relevant information. The group discussed possibilities for a website, bulletin board, or occasional emails to inform students of necessary details on the construction process.

Abigail Wild ’18, an RA in Pittenger, was please by the content of the presentation.

“I felt better informed after the presentation and excited about the sustainability initiatives, and the more developed off-campus community,” she said. “I think other than being concerned about construction, people are pretty excited.”

Sierra Bienz ’19, who lives in Palmer, appreciated the information she learned about the NPPR plan at the session.

“I didn’t have any idea what the building footprint or plan was going to be, so it was really interesting to see the architecture sketches.”

Bienz found the living arrangement for NPPR appealing.

“She’s really tempted me, the idea of single suites with a common area and air conditioning- it seems like it would be a very nice place to live.”

She also felt that living close to the construction was not an inconvenience, and that the leaders of the project valued students’ interests and concerns.

“I like being able to see the progress out my window,” she said. “It helps that [Smythe] is so willing to voice any concerns to the company doing the work.”

A final note Smythe mentioned was the importance of enhancing a sense of community for students living off-campus. She hopes the NPPR will offer more amenities and establish a stronger community for students living in these dorms.

BEP plans too late to save

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Detailed plans for the school’s new biology, psychology, and engineering building have been drawn up. Unrealistic layered renderings have been commissioned. And now, according to college administrators, it is simply too late to stop or considerably alter any of it. That’s despite the fact that the plans haven’t even been made public (on the web or in open meetings), involve demolishing two historic buildings, and will force the philosophy department to go through a difficult relocation process. Oh, and the project is still rumored to be millions of dollars over budget. Is this the precious Quaker decision-making process administrators like to get so high-minded about?

At this point, I’m told, it’s a bit unseemly to speak dismissively about the project. A veritable Frankenstein committee of mostly professors and the school’s architects, Philadelphia-based Ballinger, have both worked very hard, and I suppose criticism might bruise some egos. But when a Swarthmore student writes an academic paper, and works very hard but ends up producing something subpar, do these professors give him or her an A just for the effort? And in this case, the architects are adults who have already been compensated, no doubt handsomely, for their work. So let’s not mince words here. The current design for the new building is an incompetent mess that will cost us all dearly in budget overruns and lost historic resources, not to mention insultingly poor architecture.

Ballinger is an architecture firm that specializes, regrettably, in designing buildings for large institutions that are so generic they are virtually guaranteed to be immediately forgotten and thus not offend anyone’s aesthetic sensibilities. Considered in the context of their recent work for the Wistar Institute and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, their design for Swarthmore is par for the course. At least our building won’t be clad in yellow terra-cotta paneling. Instead they’ve gone with an imported grayish brick, a phenomenally expensive idea lifted directly from two recent dorms at Haverford.

The brick is supposed to be contextual, but no amount of fussy surface material will make up for the building’s ungainly mass: it will occupy pretty much the entire site of both Hicks and Papazian and, at four stories, dwarf Trotter and Pearson. Hicks’ scale works well with its surroundings, but the Ballinger architects can’t figure out a good way to preserve it, and Swarthmore’s administrators don’t seem to realize how much more architecturally sophisticated it is than the planned replacement. Preserving Hicks while creating modern lab space may be a challenge, but Hicks is after all an academic building with decently sized floor plates: how could it be impossible to reuse it for the very same purpose? (To the school’s credit, it says it will at least preserve the currently covered murals on Hicks’ third floor.)

It might be all right to demolish Hicks if the replacement were decently designed, which similarly should not be so terribly difficult to accomplish. In recent years the University of Pennsylvania has completed several excellent new science facilities, most notably the Singh Center for Nanotechnology by Weiss/Manfredi Architects. Temple University’s new library, by the Norwegian firm Snøhetta, promises to be one of the best new buildings in Philadelphia. Both designs are dramatic and symbolically expressive of the buildings’ functions and their users’ aspirations.

Ballinger’s, on the other hand, is a sorry mix of contemporary cliches. There are large expanses of glass adorned with horizontal metal louvers, random patterning of windows, and an excessive mix of cladding materials including granite, metal panels, perforated metal screen walls, and some kind of opaque whitish glass (in addition to the imported brick). Walls jut in and out at random angles for no apparent reason other than that that’s something the architects have noticed happens in some other contemporary buildings. The fussy complexity of all this suggests a serious inability on the part of the architects to contend with the building’s size and to craft a distinctive identity for it.

What does the design mean? It’s contemporary, but what else? I suppose its lavish materials suggest, appropriately but unintentionally, money being wasted—after all, the building’s immediate neighbors are much more modestly clad in concrete block (Beardsley), painted brick (Pearson), and simple fieldstone (Trotter).

In the distant past, Swarthmore did much better. Martin Hall, built in 1937, signified the modernity of the biology it housed through streamlined Art Deco styling: its main entrance is even adorned with small metal moldings of biological specimens. Hicks is less direct in its imagery, but its mix of Art Deco and Gothic styling suggests an interplay between the old and new. Trotter, the school’s first science building, has a stone simplicity that connotes Quaker modesty and recalls the homes of the Pennsylvania countryside.

Plan-wise, the Ballinger proposal is equally problematic. An oversized multistory atrium, the hoariest cliche of contemporary college buildings, sits sandwiched between the Nason Garden and the building’s main corridor. This is apparently envisioned as a gathering space, but it looks more like a glorified hallway, and no cafe is planned to draw people to the space. A “green wall” was originally proposed for it but that seems to have disappeared from the latest plans.

Several smaller multistory atrium-style spaces are also included (in case anyone misses the grandiosity of the first one), and throughout the upper levels there are odd openings in the floors and ceilings to levels above and below. I imagine this is the sort of thing that inspires reference to “fostering interdisciplinary connections,” though unless the college imagines biology professors shouting down at their psychology colleagues it is hard to see what practical use it might serve. On the upper levels, several rooms are inexplicably referred to as a “front porch” despite having no outdoor access whatsoever. Put all this together with the angled walls, imported brick, and demolition of Hicks and it’s no surprise the project is running over budget.

The larger picture that emerges here is one of a failed decision-making process. The first problem is that the architects both answer to and were selected by a debilitatingly large committee consisting mostly of people who know nothing about architecture. As the maxim goes, a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Science professors certainly know their functional needs (and aesthetic preferences) but that does not mean they have the knowledge or skills to steer architectural decision-making. Much like biology, engineering, and psychology, architecture is its own specialized discipline and the college would do well to recognize that.

The second major problem with the process is the lack of public information. The school has effectively cut out the many people on campus who will be involved in paying for this building and will be affected by its construction—and now says it’s too late to make significant changes.

When I first heard the school hired Ballinger, I asked to be included in the design process and the facilities department agreed. I received a single email which set out a list of principles for the design process, including such pieties as “All participants will contribute to creating a culture of trust, respect and tolerance” and “We will take the time to have fun.” Have we regressed back to the level of seventh grade homeroom? Incidentally, one of the other principles on the list is that the project “will be designed and constructed within budget and on schedule.” Ha ha.

In any case, I never received another update on the project. Maybe my own blunt and opinionated manner doesn’t fit with that culture of Quaker tolerance, although I would counter that a genuinely tolerant culture would find room for critical thought. I think I might have heard at some point that that’s what the liberal arts are all about.

Swarthmore Central Park contruction is underway

in News/Regional News/Uncategorized by

 

photo by Giorgio Xie '19
photo by Giorgio Xie ’19

 

At the intersection of Dartmouth and Park Avenues, construction continues on a “Central Park” for the town of Swarthmore. The park, an idea initiated by the Swarthmore Centennial Foundation, is planned to have a mini amphitheater, an expanded green plaza, and an electric car charging station, but will remove some parking spaces previously available.

Several members of the community look forward to holding events at the new Park.

“[We] have been excited to plan events that can take place outside,” said Lucy Saxon, a librarian at the Swarthmore Public Library. “We are excited to have a place for outdoor library programs.”

Local businesses had mixed feelings about the ongoing construction.

“I don’t think it’s a problem,” said Hania at Harvey Oak Mercantile specialty shop, on Park Avenue across from the construction. “I think that it’s good because people can go enjoy events there. I think it’s cool to see it in construction.”

“It didn’t really affect us [regarding number of customers] and I think it will look nice,” said Paul Feldmayer, who works at the restaurant Vicky’s Place, regarding its number of customers.

Some did have reservations.

“I think it kind of limits how many people come [into the town center], so they have to either walk or park somewhere else. There’s limited parking besides our main parking lot,” said Ciara, who works at the Co-op grocery store. “I’ll have to experience [the finished park] to see how I feel about it. I wish they like, came up and talked about this, not just ‘oh, we’re gunna take away your parking for a little while.’”

She also felt the construction smelled weird and was displeasing to the eye.

Jason Miller, at the Paulson & Company business across Park Avenue from the park, also felt the construction may deter customers.

“They’re still not done [with construction] at the inn and the circle, so the [park] construction doesn’t really help the local businesses.”

His co-worker Rich Simeone felt the construction would not be much of an issue once completed.

“The parking’s the only issue I have with it right now, if you’re trying to bring people into the area,” he said. “But I’m sure a lot of research went into it.”

Saxon did relay that one woman is refusing to return her library book until May 19, the expected date of the Park’s completion. This did not concern Lucy too much, and she still anticipates the services that the Park may offer.

“I think it’ll be good in the long run. It will be an inconvenience for the time but we are excited for greener space and good possibilities … for programs.”

Several people noted that many walk or ride bikes in the Ville, and limited parking may not interfere with the travels of too many patrons.

Mayor Kearney acknowledged the doubts some had about the project, but believed the park would be an enjoyable and festive component to the Ville.

“Some people were upset about losing parking spaces. I think it’s a non-issue, I think the benefits far outweigh the loss of a few parking spaces.”

While the work began on March 7th, discussion about creating a central park has been going on for 15 years. Kearney, also a professional architect, started working with others on drawings of the park four years ago.

He said the park will be able to hold outdoor movie nights, events for children, and farmers’ markets.

Kearney also said taxpayer money is not paying for the park, and all sources of funding are private. The College made a donation to the project.

Artist Massey Burke ’00 will be revisiting Swarthmore to construct the walls of the amphitheater between May 2 and May 15. Burke is the artist who created the earthwork sculpture in front of the science center. For the park, she will make rammed-earth walls, which are constructed out of natural material from the earth. Some of the materials will be collected from on campus, and she will ask current Swarthmore students to volunteer to help build.  

“I’m very excited about the project — I think that it is very important to use natural materials in visible, central ways like Swarthmore Central park, because it helps people understand that ecological construction is possible, practical, and beautiful.” She explained. “In the larger context, the use of low-carbon construction techniques like rammed earth play an important role in responding to climate change.”

The entire project will be done within the next couple of months, and the park will be holding the Borough’s annual arts festival in September.

College to begin round of construction over summer

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The college will start several new construction projects this summer to accommodate the growing student population. The projects include a new residence hall between PPR and the baseball fields, a new academic building to be called Whittier, new parking lots by Cunningham Field and the Barn, transforming the old bookstore into a computer science lab, constructing new art studios in Beardsley, and expanding the space at the 101 S. Chester road office, finishing the renovations of the ML bathrooms, and refurbishing Dana and Hallowell.

The new residence hall, currently known as New PPR, will be apartmentment style with each room having a living area, a kitchen, and five to six beds. The building will have 120 beds in total. Construction will begin after alumni weekend on June 6th and will finish in August of 2017. The building will include many outdoor and indoor flexible-use spaces, similar to the Danawell multipurpose room. These additions are in response to conversations had during the preparation of the campus master plan, in which students expressed a need for more student spaces.

“[One of the goals was] trying to build more connectivity and greater density of student population [by PPR],” said Dean of Students Liz Braun.

In addition to the student space, the college has also focused on sustainable building practices. These will include top-grade insulation,geothermal wells, and solar panels that will be able to provide up to 15 percent of the building’s power. The residence hall will be in accordance with the college’s new sustainability framework but will not be LEED certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a popular third-party verification for environmentally conscious building.

“The issue with the LEED certification is you’re filling out a lot of paperwork and you’re not getting the benefit out of it. We’d rather invest the time into doing what’s best. The other thing with the LEED standards is we actually feel the need to be stronger on areas like stormwater management than the LEED standards allow for so we’re kind of pushing that envelope” explained Greg Brown, Vice President for Finance and Administration.

The new academic building, Whittier, will also include geothermal wells and other environmental features. Construction will start behind the Lang Center after alumni weekend and be completed by the spring of 2017. The building will be 19 thousand square feet and is expected to cost $12 million. The building will be a temporary home for biology, engineering, and psychology as the BEP is being constructed. After the construction of the new BEP building, Whittier will become a new art building, in attempt to accommodate for the recent increase in studio art majors.

After Whittier is finished, the college will begin the process of tearing down Beardsley to start building BEP. This building, which will be bigger than Parrish, has a budget of $126 million and will take four years to open. The budget for environmental infrastructure alone is $12 million. After the main part of the building is done Hicks will be torn down, and the last part of the building will be finished.

Each major project coming up, the residence hall, BEP, and Whittier have different contractors. This helps with the labor demand for all the projects.

“It also helps keep the pricing competitive if we have them fighting with each other, so that’s a good thing,” said Brown.

Smaller projects for the summer include transforming the old bookstore area into a new computer science lab. As the CS department grows there has been a struggle to find space for the new lab, so for the next couple of years there will be a new lab in the basement of Tarble.

“We’re going to be adding a computer science space there until such time as we do the Clothier renovation but there was an urgent need to get that done and we still have a lot of work to do related to figuring out just what the clothier renovation is going to look like,” said Brown.

They will also finish re-doing the ML bathrooms and complete touch-ups on Dana and Hallowell to help the flow between the two buildings and the connector.

In addition to the college’s own construction projects, SEPTA will be building a new trestle in Crum Woods. The Media-Elwyn line will be closed past Swarthmore from approximately memorial day to labor day.

Looking forward, the college is hoping to continue to renovate student space creating more areas like Eldridge Commons in the Science Center.

“We know that there are renovations and things that we want to do in a number of student oriented spaces on campus so athletics, the library, clothier and Sharples all are in need of attention so as a first step we are going to be working on a visioning process that will work upon the work we did during the campus master plan,” said Braun.

The administration is calling this entire process a migration.They are trying to focus on the campus as a whole as opposed to building by building. As buildings are built and torn down they are attempting to limit the number of times departments have to move while allowing the space to grow.

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