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A Very Constructive Summer on Campus

New-look plaza, Stokes, College Road highlight projects

Stokes Hall in on schedule for a January opening.

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Sept. 6, 2012

If this summer seemed a particularly busy one, construction-wise, for Boston College — especially on Middle Campus — it’s not your imagination, says Associate Vice President for Capital Projects Mary Nardone.

Of the approximately 165 active annual projects — renovations, improvements and other work on existing structures and facilities — this year, more than 100 were completed during the summer season, explains Nardone. Add to that some major undertakings like the transformation of the Plaza at O’Neill Library, the ongoing Stokes Hall project, new turf for Alumni Stadium and work on utilities along College Road, and you have a campus with an awful lot going on.

Fortunately, says Nardone, Facilities Management administration and staff, and the contractors they worked with, were up to the challenge.

“These last several months have been a real test for the department. I don’t remember such a concentration of large projects like this — not just on the calendar but in terms of physical proximity. At times, we seemed to literally bump into each other.

“But we’ve been very pleased by the professionalism we’ve seen displayed by the workers, whether they’re affiliated with BC or not, on everything from Stokes and the library plaza to tasks like painting and installing carpeting. The campus is all the better for their efforts.”

One of the more conspicuous, and high-profile, construction projects was the new look given the Plaza at O’Neill Library. Most of the plaza’s original granite, brick and concrete were replaced by grass, while tulip trees were planted along the front of the library and flowering pink cherry trees on the opposite side near Gasson Hall. The newly configured plaza was regraded, and contains a pedestrian walkway running diagonally from the front of O’Neill Library toward the Quad between Gasson, Lyons, Devlin and Fulton Halls.

Senior Construction Project Manager Thomas Runyon lauded the performance of Richard White Sons in completing the project, which began the day after Commencement and finished up late last week. “They were on top of it from Day 1. There were a few changes in some aspects of the project, and some concerns about getting materials delivered. But they were committed to the schedule and did whatever they could to get the work done.”

The drier-than-usual summer affected some of the new trees and shrubs, Runyon says, “but they should come back just fine.” And as inviting as the lawn in the plaza may look, he adds, it will need a couple of weeks to establish itself, so the grassy areas have been roped off. “This is a hardy kind of grass, obviously, what with its location in a high-traffic area, and well-designed.”

Stokes Hall, meanwhile, is on track for its January opening for classes, according to Senior Construction Project Manager Edward Stokes. The building’s exterior masonry and roof took shape over the summer, while inside work focused on the millwork and finishes. In addition, permanent walkways and lighting were placed around the perimeter of the 183,000 square-foot structure.

Stokes said exterior and interior construction is expected to be completed in October, and furnishings and equipment installation by the end of November. Site work and landscaping will take place throughout November, and occupants will begin moving into the building in December. He said Walsh Brothers Construction is “producing a high-quality product.”

Nardone notes that there is already considerable anticipation for BC’s new humanities building. “We took a group of Student Admission Program volunteers on a tour, so they can start getting a feel for what the building will look like in the spring when they bring prospective students through. They were very impressed.”

The new Astroturf playing surface installed this summer in Alumni Stadium had its official introduction this past Saturday with the BC-Miami football game. There were other improvements to the stadium, adds Stokes: a new brick and precast wall on its lower “bowl” — done by McCourt Construction, which also installed the Astroturf — and a new coat of paint along the concourse.

College Road was another center of activity this summer, as the University undertook a long-envisioned project to relocate the street’s utilities underground. As of last week, according to Runyon, all of the new below-grade conduits and telecommunication wiring had been installed along College Road from Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue.

Over the next several weeks, he says, NSTAR will be pulling the electrical cabling in their below-grade conduits. After that, the College Road buildings will be switched over the new underground utilities on a house-by-house sequence. In late fall, the old wires will be removed, along with the 15 wooden utility poles.

"We looked at putting the wires underground several years ago, but at the time it didn’t make sense,” says Runyon. “With the Stokes project, this was a perfect opportunity. While running utilities underground is practical, the other advantage is that you will get a pristine view of Stokes, without utility poles and wires blocking the way.”