New Baxter should be completed in ’06

After a summer at the drawing boards, Polshek Partners will return to campus this Friday to deliver the latest revisions to its plans for the new student center which will replace Baxter Hall.

The plans – which are still preliminary, pending administrative, faculty and student input – will be presented at a meeting of the Student Center Committee this Friday. After polishing the plans in light of committee concerns, Polshek is expected to reveal the designs to the larger College community at a meeting in early October.

Last February, students and faculty were first introduced to preliminary models of the new structure.

A modern t3-story design with sweeping contemporary lines, the building was both lauded as the first true student center the College community has known and lamented as an urban, “neo-George Jetson” structure that would steal too much attention from Chapin Hall.

Due to both these criticisms and budget concerns (the proposed structure was tagged with a price between $6-7 million over the $36 million budget), these plans were drastically revised as the architects attempted to create a smaller, more efficient design that would match both the budget and popular ideas about how the building should look.

The architects presented very preliminary schematics near the end of the Spring semester, but due to a variety of reasons, the committee has taken no action on these plans since early June.

“We hit the pause button on the project because it was impossible to get the committee and the architects together after a certain point in the summer. Everyone’s schedule just did not mesh,” Dean Roseman, chair of the student center committee, said. “Also, I thought it unwise and inappropriate to continue the design process when the vast majority of the campus community was not here.”

Roseman said she expects the new designs to showcase a significantly different exterior than those revealed last Spring. The building is expected to be predominantly brick, with the circular element of the Snack Bar functioning as a focal point.

The reduction in size from three floors to two should also help the building blend in with the surrounding quad. “I believe the community will respond favorably to how the exterior is shaping up,” she said.

Interior spaces will likely follow the pattern of past designs. The basement will house a pub and student lounge, in addition to Dining Services food preparation space. A two-story “Great Hall” is the focus of the first floor, which will also contain a snack bar and a marketplace-style dining area in place of a traditional dining hall. The second floor has a large reading room and space for student organizations.

Demolition of Baxter Hall is scheduled to begin just after the alumni reunions are finished in June 2004 so that “the majority of students – past and present – will not have to witness the destruction of their beloved Baxter Hall,” said Chris Williams, assistant director for Architectural Services, who is managing the project through B&G.

Construction of the new building will begin just as the construction of the new ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance wraps up and the Stetson/Sawyer renovation enters active planning.“The College is embarking on an amazingly ambitious building program with these projects. There’s a strong sense of ‘let’s get this done’, but it might get a little messy before it’s over,” Williams said.

The new student center is scheduled to open in Sept. 2006. However, Roseman does not expect the construction to be an exceptional burden on the community.

“We have spent a significant amount of time considering these very issues and are confident that the campus is not going to be one big construction site. We purposefully staged these projects so that each one would be almost done before the next one began,” she said.Roseman pointed to the recent renovation of the Science Center as an example of how a major construction project can be integrated into daily campus life. “I was amazed at how [construction crews] adapted to our need to keep teaching and doing research only a few feet away,” she said.

Financial resources are also being carefully managed, according to Helen Ouellette, vice president for Administration and Treasurer, to ensure that the various projects can each be completed on budget and on schedule. “We keep a very close eye on cash flow and always consider contingencies,” she said. The student center project is funded by a combination of alumni donations and a tax-exempt bond.

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