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An overall view of the proposed Stokes Hall on Middle Campus. (Drawing courtesy of Tsoi/Kobus and Associates)

Gasson, Stokes Hall Projects Highlight Campus Construction

Positive impact on academic and student formation is seen
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By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor
Published: May 13, 2010
Boston College is gearing up for an extensive period of construction and renovation that will remake significant portions of the Chestnut Hill and Brighton campuses and enable the University to move forward on implementing its Institutional Master Plan (IMP).

The completion of these imminent projects - notably the renovation of Gasson Hall and the construction of Stokes Hall, and renovations on the Brighton Campus - will invigorate BC's Strategic Plan for academics and student formation, administrators say. The Gasson Hall project was approved by the Board of Trustees in March, and approval will be sought for the Stokes Hall and Brighton Campus projects at the trustees' September meeting.

"It's going to be a very busy time for the next 18-24 months, and a very exciting time as these elements of the IMP become reality," said Executive Vice President Patrick Keating in a recent interview. "There will be some adjustments for us as a community to make, including in traffic and parking. But every effort will be made to minimize disruptions, as is always the case with construction projects.

"And out of this, you'll begin to see a new BC take shape - not only in terms of bricks and mortar, but in the programs, opportunities and experiences the University offers its faculty, students and staff."

Shortly after Commencement, the Gasson renovation project will begin, a task that involves the removal and replacement of some 6,800 pieces of pre-cut stone. Each piece - including those that form Gasson's foundation - will be removed, measured, photographed and shipped to a pre-cast contractor who will create molds, pour concrete, cure and ship it back to campus. Pieces that have deteriorated over time will be recreated from detailed original drawings of the building.

The expected 15-month project will necessitate the relocation of classes and offices, including those of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Arts and Sciences Honors Program and University Counseling, which will be temporarily moved to Carney Hall. Lounge areas in McGuinn Hall, McElroy Commons, O'Connell Hall and several Upper Campus residence halls will serve as classrooms; the School of Theology and Ministry on Brighton Campus also has offered some of its classroom space. 

"Gasson will be restored to its original character," said Keating. "It is BC's signature building and greatly needs repairs so that it can continue to play both its practical and iconic role for the University."

The Stokes Hall project, pending final approval by the trustees, would begin this October. It will entail the construction of a 180,000-square foot building on the western edge of the Campus Green that, when completed in 2013, will house humanities departments - English, Philosophy, History, Theology and Classics - as well as the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, First Year Experience program, and the Administrative Service and Academic Advising centers.

In addition, Stokes will contain 36 classrooms and provide ample gathering space for formal and informal activities.

"Stokes will enhance a number of academic strategic goals," said Provost and Dean of Faculties Cutberto Garza. "It will assure a 'home base' for the humanities; provide more spaces for meetings, offices, classes -and smaller seminars in particular - improve links between the Advising Center and First Year Experience; and present greater opportunities for students and faculty to interact outside the classroom - a key component of BC's emphasis on student formation."

Keating adds that Stokes Hall "will define a new Campus Green that is approximately the size of O'Neill Plaza," featuring an enclosed quadrangle that will host gatherings including school commencements and other events.

"We're especially pleased that, our architect for the project, Tsoi/Kobus, has designed a building in the English collegiate gothic style that can be found throughout BC's Middle Campus," he said. "Stokes will look very much like it belongs. And that's important, because it will be one of the most heavily visited places on campus."

Keating said the plans for Stokes Hall reflect the IMP's comprehensive, long-term vision for BC. The new building will not only "provide improved academic space for the humanities and much needed classrooms," he explained, but also "relieve space pressures on other academic programs across the campus."

 On Brighton Campus, the University has submitted a small project permit request to the City of Boston for the renovation of 129 Lake Street, and is awaiting approval from the Boston Redevelopment Authority within the next few weeks. The building would be the new home for BC's Finance and Human Resources offices, now located in More Hall on the Chestnut Hill Campus. Work would start in October and last approximately a year.

Renovations to the Chancery building on Brighton Campus will enable it to house the University Development staff, now in More Hall, said Keating. Permits for this project will be filed by early summer.

The IMP calls for More Hall, once vacated, to be torn down and replaced by a 470-bed residence hall, Keating said. Design work is just starting for this building; if trustees and city officials consent, it would be ready for occupancy by 2014.