Construction project stalls

by Josh Koenig and Roshan Dutta | 10/31/13 7:01pm

by Zonia Moore / The Dartmouth

The College is reevaluating the future use of the planned $150 million North Campus Academic Center, interim vice president for campus planning and facilities Bill Anderson said.

In 2011, the College announced the creation of the North Campus Academic Center, which was slated to be completed by 2015 and house several departments. Since the finalization of the construction plan in 2012 by the Board of Trustees, however, little progress has been made.

“I think it’s a very healthy exercise to go and reexamine what program elements are in the building,” Anderson said. “I think this is a very positive turn.”

The building was originally intended to house healthcare delivery projects, such as the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Dartmouth Center for Health Care and Delivery Science. These projects have since been moved to the planned Williamson Translational Research Building in Lebanon.

“Once that programmatic change was made, we decided to take a step back and reexamine the program to see what is the right program [for the new building],” Anderson said.

Dean of the faculty of arts and sciences Michael Mastanduno is working with administrators the underlying need for an academic center in North Campus, Anderson said. In addition to the health care projects, the building had been intended to host three social science departments, the graduate studies department, Geisel School of Medicine administration and the Dana Biomedical Library.

Emily Petno ’16, a McLaughlin cluster resident, said students might have a mixed reaction if anthropology, sociology and geography, the three social science departments chosen to move are relocated to the North Campus site.

“People go to life sciences, and they deal with it,” Petno said. “But those departments are all in convenient locations now, so it would be a big difference. People might complain about that.”

Petno said having another library or Dartmouth Dining Services establishment in the new building would be welcomed by McLaughlin residents.

Students interviewed knew little about the proposed campus center. There is little evidence of construction activity behind McLaughlin.

Campus planning director Joanna Whitcomb speculated that the construction delay may be partially because Dartmouth’s new presidential administration is still finalizing its priorities.

Anderson, however, said he did not believe the administrative shift had dramatically slowed construction.

“The decision to move the healthcare delivery piece out of that program was made before President Hanlon got on board,” he said. “So the question has been, okay, what should really be in the building and what is the compelling need for the building.”

Associate dean of faculty for the sciences David Kotz, who served on a planning committee evaluating the academic center during the early stages of the program’s development, said he has not been part of recent discussions about the project.

Kotz recently gave his position on the committee to associate dean for the social sciences Nancy Marion, who could not be reached for comment.

While the exact specifications of the North Campus Academic Center remain unclear, with few developments since this summer, the reexamination process will yield results in the coming months, Anderson said.

“We’re hoping to be able to reexamine the program over the next several months and then be in a position to make a recommendation to the administration and the board in the March time frame,” he said.

MTMA architects, a firm located in Cambridge, Mass., lists a budding design on their website under project archives.

The building is described on the website as a “multi-use space designed to promote inter-disciplinary interaction between the user groups.”

MTMA declined to comment per a firm policy to refrain from discussing projects without the express consent of the client.

Staff writer Axel Hufford contributed reporting.