Campus makeover will continue after Wright

by Allyson Bennett | 9/24/08 3:48am

College President James Wright's vision for campus will continue to change its physical makeup even after he has left Dartmouth, as many of the projects conceived during his tenure will not be complete by the time he leaves, due to delays caused by criticism from Hanover residents. These projects include new social spaces, academic buildings and continued renovations of residence halls.

While delays in these plans are unfortunate, Wright told The Dartmouth in an interview, they are to be expected since construction rarely goes according to schedule.

"One learns patience in a job like this," Wright said.

The College released plans for a new $52-million visual arts center in mid-July, prompting criticism from some Hanover residents who argue that the proposed design -- a three-story building of glass and slate -- is too modern for the town. The building will be located on Lebanon Street where Brewster Hall and Clement Hall are currently located.

The Center will feature a 250-seat auditorium, seminar rooms, individual animation booths and digital film studios.

Construction will likely begin this month, according to a College statement, and will last for two years.

Construction on the new $93-million Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center is scheduled to begin this month following a year of delay -- construction was originally scheduled to start in November 2007. Construction was postponed with the November filing of two appeals by the Occom Pond Neighborhood Association of two town-of-Hanover rulings that had previously approved the construction. The Grafton County Superior Court upheld the town's approval of construction in August 2008, and the OPNA declined to file an appeal.

The building will be built on the site previously occupied by Dartmouth Medical School's Strasenburgh Hall, Butler Hall and McCollum Modular Laboratory, and will house the consolidated department of Biological Sciences, which is currently split between Gilman and the Centerra Biolabs.

"The life sciences are a pillar of the liberal arts," Director of Planning, Design, and Construction Stephen Campbell said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth. "The new facility will enable the work of students and faculty in these critical fields."

Construction of the Class of 1953 Commons, a new dining hall to be built on North Maynard Street, has been delayed because of difficulties in obtaining a permit from the town of Hanover. The building will serve as a dining hall and an additional social space, according to Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman. The building, which will cost an estimated $16.9 million, will seat 250 people, with additional outdoor seating on a southern terrace, a lawn, a sustainable kitchen, a social gathering space and a large conference room, according to plans on the Office of Planning, Design and Construction web site.

A May 2007 Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment ruling required Dartmouth to obtain a permit for construction, which has delayed the project. The College initially argued that the building was exempt from the permitting requirements because it was for "educational purposes," but told The Dartmouth at the time that it would not appeal the Board's decision. The start and end dates for construction of the new dining hall have not yet been determined, according to the office's web site.

Plans for a new dining hall to be built on the site of Thayer Dining Hall have also been delayed pending the release of a report by the Social Space Committee so that the committee's recommendations can be considered in the final plans, according to Mary Gorman, associate provost of the College. The dining hall will be approximately 72,500 gross square feet, including approximately 4,500 net square feet for social programming, and will have 750 seats, according to plans on the OPDC web site.

Planning will resume after the report's release, probably in early Fall term, Gorman previously told The Dartmouth. The start date of construction and project occupancy date had not been determined as of Sept. 7, according to the OPDC web site.

A full renovation is also underway of New Hampshire Residence Hall. The $10.7 million renovation, which began in March 2008, is scheduled to be completed by January 2009. The residence hall will house 100 students, have increased lounge and study space, decompress overcrowded rooms, increase safety features and perform general maintenance.

Although no construction is currently planned, Redman said he hopes to replace or renovate the Choates and River clusters eventually and to renovate the Fayerweathers. Depending on which student populations these residence halls would house -- the Choates may not stay first-year housing, for example -- the College could add more singles or create more suite-style rooms, Redman said.

In planning these new buildings, Redman said, the College must create spaces that fulfill current students' wishes that will also be adaptable to those of future students.

"A part of the College's job in the physical plant piece is trying to build designs that are flexible and yet at the same time trying to be somewhat generic with space " trying to create enduring or timeless spaces," Redman said in an interview. "Whenever you do that, they never meet anyone's needs 100 percent. I have no idea what students will want 10 years from now, but we're not going to be tearing down the McLaughlin Cluster to meet those particular needs in 10 years."