College seeks approval for $200 million Thayer expansion

by Michaela Artavia-High | 10/4/18 2:55am

On Tuesday, the College sought approval from the Hanover planning board to move forward with the Thayer School of Engineering’s $200 million donor-funded expansion. Following the hearing, the project will undergo a site review, which is currently scheduled for Oct. 10.

The presentation for the expansion project was led by John Scherding, the College’s vice president of planning, design and construction, and Ellen Arnold, director of real estate and associate general counsel for campus services.

Before the presentation began, Hanover planning board member Paul Simon motioned to approve the College’s application for a site plan review, which was then unanimously approved.

Scherding commenced with an overview of the planned expansion — the project involves the installation of a new parking lot under Thayer, which is to be excavated from the slope on the west end; the completion of the Channing Cox parking lot; the construction of a new joint building that will host both the College’s computer science department and Thayer; and the addition of a west access road to campus.

The new building will be constructed to create a unified courtyard with McLane residences and the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, according to head architect Samir Srouji.

Scherding added that the long term goal is to make this section of campus exclusively for pedestrians and bikers, improving the safety and environment of the west end of the campus.

The proposed changes include the addition of a stoplight on West Wheelock Street to mitigate traffic congestion and safety concerns.

“You add a signal, that’s a big deal,” Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “Anything that’s perceived as stopping traffic more than it already does may generate some controversy.”

According to Hanover resident and the project’s traffic analyst Erica Wygonik, the signal will not impede traffic coming into town and will facilitate left turns onto the access road.

“That traffic signal will make that whole intersection safer, especially for pedestrians,” Griffin said.

The addition of the signal complicates the approval process because it requires additional permits, along with several others required for the project, Arnold said.

“It’s not just the town of Hanover; there are already other agencies that are involved in getting approval for the permits that we need to go forward with the project,” she said.

The hearing also featured detailed explanations from the team working on the Thayer expansion. In addition to Srouji and Wygonik, the expansion’s planning team includes landscape architect Chris Matthews, architectural lighting designer Carrie Hawley, principal acoustics consultant Doug Sturz, civil engineer Nik Fiore and contractor Mike Gallivan.

“Modern buildings are very complicated,” Scherding said. “It takes a team of specialists and engineers and designers of all sorts.”

Since the Thayer expansion is such a large undertaking, each factor must be fully attended to, he added.

Following presentations on each aspect of the project, the planning board heard comments and concerns from the public.

Kevin Purcell, who owns five residential apartment buildings along West Wheelock Street across from the proposed construction site, said he supports the project, but is concerned about how it may impact the properties on West Wheelock Street.

Bill Young, who attended the hearing on behalf of Hanover’s Bike and Pedestrian Committee, said he supports the expansion. He added that the changes at the intersection would make the area safer, particularly for pedestrians. Young also urged the project designers to consider the addition of designated space for bikers as biking on sidewalks is illegal.

Griffin said she expected these concerns and comments from the public.

“The Thayer expansion, because it abuts a residential and traffic corridor, may be more complex in review and approval than some Dartmouth projects,” she said.

The current schedule plans to have the Thayer building completed in summer of 2021 and ready for use that fall.

“We hope to have approval for the project by the new year, and construction of the parking lot will then start early in the new year,” Scherding said.