Goodrich fall opening plans finalized

As the one-year anniversary of the closing of Goodrich Hall after last May’s Günther concert approaches, plans for the reopening of the beloved building are beginning to take shape. In an e-mail sent to the campus over spring recess, Steve Klass, vice president for operations, announced that Goodrich was on schedule for re-opening in fall 2008, with construction to begin in June.

In the message, Klass outlined all of the major changes to be made to the building and a schedule for completion. Notable among the changes is the dance department’s occupation of the south wing of the building, formerly known both as the “living room” and the home of Grab-n-Go. The change will necessitate several alterations to the building, including the construction of a green room on the upper level and a new storage vestibule on the north end of the building. Additionally, the spiral staircase by the west entrance and the stage in Payne Hall will be reconfigured to meet safety and accessibility codes.

The committee to oversee the building’s renovation was formed in late November 2007, after six months of little progress on the project. It consists of representatives from the Office of Campus Life, the dance department and the student body, as well as chair Mike Briggs, senior project manager for Goodrich, and representatives from EDM Architects and Engineers, a Pittsfield firm.

According to Briggs, the committee was concerned with a host of issues related to Goodrich, from broader concerns with sharing of space to the more specific issues of furniture selection and storage. “We had all the needed constituencies represented to slog through the details and make a recommendation to senior staff based on the issues we uncovered, discussed and worked through,” Briggs said. He admitted, however, that when debating certain divisive issues the meetings were tense, reporting several “chilly and frank” discussions.

“The most contentious issue was trying to physically resolve potential co-habitation issues between the dance department and students,” said Kim Dacres ’08, former head of the Goodrich Coffee Bar and a member of the committee. According to Dacres, one of the key issues for her was addressing the dance department’s presence in Goodrich. “Why does dance need a space [there] if the College just opened the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance?” she said.

Holly Silva, assistant director of dance and a member of the committee, explained that her department’s move into Goodrich coincided with their loss of studio space in Upper Lasell to the new fitness center. “We are now a tenant, and we wanted to have input in order to make the building better for the dance department, as well as for the student body,” Silva said. She explained the dance department’s role on the committee as one of advising the renovations from a visual performing arts perspective. “We wanted to make the space more user friendly for performances,” Silva said. “In the past, it wasn’t the easiest space for performers to use.”

Some of the changes made to improve Goodrich’s usability for performances include the transformation of the west alcove of the second floor into a green room. “That situation worked out nicely, as the space will be private enough to be used as a green room, but can also be used as a study space the rest of the time,” Silva said. Other renovations will include a slight increase in the size of the stage in Payne Hall and an upgraded lighting system.

Both Briggs and Dacres said that the closing of Goodrich revealed that the building still had an important function to fulfill on campus, despite the recent opening of the Paresky Center. “[The loss of] Goodrich revealed the inadequacy of Paresky as a student center, which is really a lot of open space, a dining hall and offices,” Dacres said. “Its loss was felt by students and faculty who relied on it as an intimate yet spacious, go-to space for keynote events and parties.”

Briggs stressed that while many buildings on campus are closely controlled by particular organizations or departments, Goodrich had always been a student space until the dance department’s move. “It’s really the only building on campus that students can program for themselves,” he said. According to Briggs, come September Payne Hall will resume much the same role it played before, including 24-hour, seven-days-a-week access and the re-opening of the coffee bar.

In addition to structural changes resulting from the complete overhaul of the entryway spiral staircase, the north vestibule, currently unenclosed, will be turned into unheated furniture storage, a solution agreed upon since the former storage location, the living room, could no longer be relied upon to fulfill many of its previous functions.

At the moment, the committee is focusing in on the small details of the project. “Last week, we sat in various sample chairs,” Briggs said. “In a few weeks, we’ll be looking a possible colors for the walls.” In the coming weeks, the committee will select a construction manager, at which point its work will largely be done. “We’ll meet periodically to review the project plans and documents, but once we get into the construction and the plans are finalized, there’s no need for a committee anymore,” Briggs said.