Campus Construction Projects Continue On Track

Campus Construction Projects Continue On Track

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

The initial phase of the construction of a Lower Campus administration building and the expected completion of the Higgins stairs head the list of campus building projects underway this winter.


Work continued last week in the attic of Williams Hall, one of several Upper Campus residence halls undergoing expansion. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Meanwhile, as work proceeds on expanding several Upper Campus residence halls, University administrators are seeking to ease student concerns about the project's impact on the area.

"We're working on a number of important projects right now and we're optimistic about the progress we're making in each of them," said Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Thomas Devine last week.

He said work on the new Lower Campus administration building might begin as early as the first week in March. The 155,000 square-foot building, which will be located on the hillside east of O'Neill Library, will stand five stories tall and should take 18 months to complete.

The new building will serve as headquarters of the Boston College Police Department and the Office of Residential Life, in addition to housing Information Technology offices, a bookstore annex and other administrative offices. The Economics, History and Communication departments will also have office space in the building.

Devine said work is nearing completion on the 120-step stairway, commonly known as Higgins Stairs, that joins the Lower and Middle campuses. The redesigned stairway features landings and benches and offers a more relaxed climb up the hill than did its former design, he said. Weather permitting, the project may be finished early this month, Devine said, with landscape work to follow once the ground thaws this spring.

The renovations to Higgins Hall are in the second of three phases, with contractors working on an accelerated schedule so as to begin the final stage in March and finish the project this November, according to Assistant to the Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Joseph Comerford. Once work is completed, Higgins will feature two new auditoriums with improved audiovisual technology, additional classrooms, offices and other facilities.

A multi-phase project to increase the capacity of Upper Campus residence halls is proceeding on schedule, administrators said. The project includes the construction of a 10,000 square-foot structure that will join Gonzaga Hall to Fitzpatrick Hall and provide needed common space, as well as the conversion of attic space to student rooms in Gonzaga, Fitzpatrick, Williams, Welch and Roncalli halls. A total of 236 beds will be added to the Upper Campus residence halls.

A recent editorial in BC's student-run newspaper, The Heights, raised concerns about the project and its effect on Upper Campus residents, citing noise caused by workers and machinery as a major problem for students in the area. The editorial also said University administrators had failed to adequately communicate with students on this matter.

Devine said he appreciated the balanced view offered by the editorial and values students' opinions and comments on campus construction. But he disputed claims that construction work continued during last semester's exams and reading periods.

"All construction was stopped at that time and the contractor's schedule from that period reflects that," he said.

Devine acknowledged occasional missteps, but said the University has taken "great pains to minimize the interference of the construction project on students' living situations."

Office of Residential Life Associate Director for Operations and Financial Management Linda J. Riley said the bulk of student complaints have originated from one specific area of the job site. There have been only a few isolated comments from students concerning other areas of the project, she said.

Riley said BC administrators and construction company officials are constantly scrutinizing the site's operations to keep disturbances at a minimum, and are working hard to keep students informed. She said construction updates are provided on the project's World Wide Web site, www.bc.edu/bc_org/svp/house/renov/projectinfo.htm, and bulletin boards in each residence hall. Students can also e-mail questions and comments to University administrators through the Web site.

Riley also noted that BC administrators and construction company executives have met with residence hall directors and assistants to address student concerns, and hosted clam chowder socials that offered additional question-and-answer opportunities for students.

Devine said, "We're sensitive to the needs of our students and want to do as much as we can to make this as easy as possible for everyone."

 

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