Campus Center Construction Update

Katy Hillbo

The campus center construction site gives the impression that the campus center is part of the earth itself.
The foundations are integrated so tightly into the surrounding landscape that the construction looks more like a natural phenomenon than the man-made project costing $35 million that it actually is. The steps are literally carved into the clay at the bottom of the site, and the foundation and first level look as if they are growing out of the dirt.
However, the campus center did not simply spring out of the ground; it is finally becoming a reality after 19 years of planning.
According to senior Nathan Litt, member of the Campus Center Planning Committee, “other projects, like the conservatory, the renovations of Youngchild Hall and Science Hall and the construction of Hiett” were deemed to be immediately necessary and consequently “the priority of the campus center moved.”
Once the campus center became the main focus, committees were formed to meet with the architects, Uihlein-Wilson Architects of Milwaukee and KSS Architects of Princeton, N.J.
The committees collaborated with President Beck, trustees, alumni and campus representatives. Most importantly, they worked with students in order to find out what they would like to get out of the new campus center.
As Litt wrote in his application for the committee, “The campus center should be for students, by students.”
Even though the design for the campus center has long been decided, the committee is still finding ways to keep students involved. They are planning an informational session for freshmen that will allow them to become more acquainted with the new campus center and its progress so far. Details, including lighting styles, have yet to be decided and will involve student input.
Students are also encouraged to attend an official concrete-pouring event for the campus center, which will be held Oct. 18 at 10:30 a.m. and will include party favors. The event will be held on Lawe Street, across from the garden.
As well as being sensitive to students’ opinions, those involved with the planning and construction of the campus center are aware of the impact that the campus center will have on the environment. Because of this, Lawrence University is in line for the silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certificate.
The campus center project coordinator, Lynn Hagee, explained, “We will try to use materials in a 150-mile radius. 60,000 cubic yards of soil were removed from the site, and we’re going to reuse the topsoil. The old bridge will be crushed to create walkways. Also, we saved house bricks from Hulbert House. This helped the financial picture and helped us earn LEED points.”
Perhaps the most intriguing way that Lawrence is earning LEED points is by having a green roof as part of the campus center. The roof will be covered in grass, which will provide better insulation and cooling.
There have, however, been a few obstacles during the construction of the campus center, mostly due to the center’s proximity to Sage Hall.
The 90-year-old building has presented “one surprise after another,” according to Hagee.
“Sage had slipped on the southwest corner,” Hagee explains. The construction workers also found “corroded pipes, broken steam lines and two dry wells.”
The Lawe Street bridge presented problems as well. Although construction of the new land bridge was originally scheduled before the 2007-2008 school year, the project had to be put on hold until workers could install boilers for Jason Downer Commons and formal group housing.
“Originally, all of the hot water came from a conduit that hung from the bottom of the foot bridge,” said Hagee.
Currently, the construction is progressing efficiently. Even with the large amounts of rain that Wisconsin received over the past summer, the construction is only two-and-a-half weeks behind schedule.
According to Hagee, “The construction workers pumped the water out so they could continue work on the campus center.” As with any construction site, there is concern for the safety of the workers and for people nearby the construction.
“The safety of workers and students is important to the Boldt construction company and to us. There is fencing around the site and cameras,” said Hagee. Nancy Truesdell, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, warns students to take the construction seriously.
“It is dangerous. It is a construction site, and people should treat it like a construction site. Workers know how to handle the dangers more than your average person… people should obey the signs,” said Truesdell.
The campus center construction has already affected many students on campus, especially those living in formal group housing and Sage Hall. So far, noise seems to be the biggest problem.
“Construction starts early,” said Sarah Muenster, Sage Residence Hall Director. She added that the workers start later now that school has started. “They’ve been pretty good about that.”
Another obstacle for students is simply getting around the construction. “Students have to go through the quad, so that’s an inconvenience,” said Muenster. “Now they’re getting used to it, though.”
Despite the inconveniences, Muenster feels a sense of pride that she thinks her residents share.
“We’re adopting the construction as our own. It’s right next door; it’s almost like we are the construction site. We have a perfect view and we get to see how the project is progressing every day, which is something that the other students don’t have.”
As Truesdell said, “There is no way for progress to occur without disruption. We just ask for patience from the students.”
For our patience, we will not only get a new campus center, but as the people who have worked so hard on the campus center hope, a stronger sense of community.
Said Litt, “The campus center is going to bring people together. People will have more reasons to come, which will increase contact between students, faculty and staff.