Admin. considers SW sector building options

Last fall, President Falk and a task force of students, faculty and staff created the Southwest Campus Sector Plan (SWCSP). The group examined the Southwest sector, a geographic area of campus bounded by Main, Spring, Walden and South Streets on the north, east, south and west, respectively. This region encompasses upperclassmen dorms, the Health Center, the Davis Center, the Office of Admission, Bronfman Science Center, Jesup Hall and several other buildings.

SWCSP was formed as a task force to create a long-term vision for this area of campus, as previous projects concentrated more on individual buildings and programs. “This planning effort combines a previously approved set of separate studies for individual buildings and programs, acknowledging that a precinct-level overview would result in better long-term decision-making,” Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, said. The group met biweekly throughout winter and spring 2013 and is now looking at the components of the first stages of its report.

SWCSP has mostly focused on the “adaptation of existing buildings rather than the assumption of new construction,” Klass said. In addition, the focus of the task force was not on creating a unifying purpose for the buildings in the Southwest Sector; rather, the task force endeavored to determine which buildings were overused, which were underutilized and which would need to be repurposed.

SWCSP studied 12 buildings in particular: Weston, Bascom, Thompson Health Center, Hardy, Rice, Jenness, the Science Center, Harper, Mather, Jesup, Brooks and Siskind. “These buildings share a number of characteristics that make them ideal subjects for a comprehensive study of this type,” said Klass. “Some lack adequate capacity, system infrastructure or location for their current uses. Some are underutilized; some are capacity-constrained; some are in need of major renovation; some are completely or nearly vacant; some are inadequate in shape and/or scale for the current program; some are in flux and ripe for adaptive reuse.”

In looking at these buildings, SWCSP developed governing principles, to help ensure that the group’s work supports the College’s academic mission, prioritizing program optimization, campus planning and future flexibility in the decision-making process. With these principles in mind, the group discussed the best location for programs, the best uses for buildings for those within the geographic parameters, and the opportunities to address general campus space needs.

One of the main projects that SWCSP is focusing on is relocating the Office of Admission, which is currently located in Bascom. “[Bascom] is not a building that was designed for admissions or receiving guests and visitors,” said Richard Nesbitt ’74, director of admissions. “It is actually bigger [than Mather], but it doesn’t accommodate the kind of traffic we get. In particular, the rest rooms are woefully inadequate.”

SWCSP has been considering Weston as a potential location for Admissions. Since the Career Center moved to Mears, Weston has been used for classrooms and offices for the Communications Office web development group but has also been partially vacant. “Nothing has been set in stone, but Weston is the primary place that [SWCSP] targeted as a possible location for the Admissions Office,” Nesbitt said.

In addition, Admissions may be located in Weston with the Office of Financial Aid, which is currently located on the first floor of Hopkins Hall. “From the admissions [office’s] perspective, prospective students and families would have one-stop shopping. The financial aid office would be right there to address questions from prospective students,” Nesbitt said.

However, the plan is only in elementary stages. “We have to move ahead and investigate, if we were to move to Weston, what kind of costs would be involved. It is a costly proposition to move,” Nesbitt said.

“We would like to be somewhere different in two years,” he continued. “I feel like this is the direction we’re moving in, but we’re going to have to do a lot of groundwork first. If [SWCSP] finds out that the building can’t be renovated or it will be too costly, we’ll have to figure something else out.”