Renovated Higgins Hall Seen as a Boon to Physics, Biology

Renovated Higgins Hall Seen as a Boon to Physics, Biology

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

The beginning of the 2002-03 academic year coincides with the final stages of several campus construction projects, each of which is expected to greatly enhance Boston College's academic, administrative and student life operations.

DeLuca Professor of Biology Marc Muskavitch (left) and Rourke Professor of Physics Kevin Bedell stand in the new atrium in the renovated Higgins Hall. "This new facility is comparable to what can be found at the best research-intensive institutions or medical schools in the country," said Muskavitch. "We can now do high-end, big-time science in this building," agreed Bedell.
Chief among these are the Higgins Hall renovation project, its finishing touches all but completed this week, and the new Lower Campus Administration Building, which last month welcomed its first tenant, the Boston College Police Department [see related story].

"This past year has been a significant one in terms of the amount of construction done on campus and the impact the buildings and landscape will have on daily life," said Executive Vice President Patrick Keating, who praised Vice President for Facilities Management Thomas Devine and his staff.

"Tom, his team and the contractors have done an excellent job in bringing these projects to completion," said Keating.

He said that the construction timetable, especially during the summer break, has been tight but is "coming together very nicely."

The four-year Higgins Hall project has brought new life to a 35-year-old structure whose facilities had long been outdated, BC administrators say. The building, which has been enlarged by approximately 100,000 square feet from its previous 135,000 square feet, now features an impressive external façade and an equally majestic atrium. Higgins' mechanical, electronic and plumbing systems have all been modernized, and it also boasts new teaching and research laboratories.

For its tenants, the renovated Higgins is an important asset in the efforts to promote the sciences at BC. Rourke Professor of Physics Kevin Bedell said his department's success in attracting students and faculty was already on the upswing during the construction, and he expects the trend to continue now that the work is done.

"We can now do high-end, big-time science in this building and more students are recognizing that," said Bedell, the Physics Department chairman.

He said that the new labs and new office space offer greater opportunities for more students and faculty to do better work. "We now have nationally competitive facilities and that is making all the difference," he said.

DeLuca Professor of Biology Marc Muskavitch, who chairs the Biology Department, agreed. "This new facility is comparable to what can be found at the best research-intensive institutions or medical schools in the country.

"Obviously, this will aid in teaching and research at all levels, but will also be very important in attracting new colleagues at the post-graduate level."

The improvements to Higgins extend beyond its walls. Crews are finishing work on a landscaped green space in front of Higgins and adjacent to Devlin and Fulton halls. This area includes a granite seat wall, small gathering areas, a brick pedestrian walkway and lamps, with grass, trees and attractive landscape features at its center.

Devine said the new dining facility, known as Hillside Café, and the bookstore annex will open for business in the Lower Campus Administration Building before Parents' Weekend on Sept. 28. Other departments will move into the building throughout the semester with completion expected by the end of the calendar year.

Meanwhile, work began this summer on a new 300-bed residence hall, located near the St. Ignatius Gate. Einhorn, Yaffee, Prescott Architecture & Engineering are designing the building, which will have an external façade that complements the surrounding architecture, Devine said. The construction will resume next spring and completion is expected in late summer of 2004.

The second part of a multi-phase project to increase the capacity of Upper Campus residence halls was finished in mid-August. The phase includes the construction of a 10,000 square-foot structure that joins Fenwick Hall to Xavier Hall and provides needed common space, as well as the conversion of attic space to student rooms.

The new residence hall and the Upper Campus project are components in the University's master plan, which calls for 800 additional beds by 2004.
Other recent campus construction work included a landscaping project outside McElroy Commons at the intersection of Hammond Street and Beacon Street and major renovations to the Stuart Dining Hall on Newton Campus. Dining Service Director Patricia Bando said the 290-seat facility has a "club-like" atmosphere featuring warm earth-toned décor and several artistic elements.


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