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  September 4, 2000

Construction Changing Face of University

When Eric Ferreri graduated in May 1996, the UConn 2000 program had just begun and new construction projects were few. Much has changed since then and, as the 10-year, nearly $1 billion program enters its sixth year, the changes are striking - especially for people who have been away from Connecticut.

"I'm continually stunned by the changes to the campus," said Ferreri, who lives in North Carolina but returns to Storrs regularly to visit his parents. "In the last five years, the campus has changed dramatically. I'm always surprised. It's almost like a game, coming back to town every once in a while and finding the newest building."

There have been plenty for Ferreri to choose from. Since the summer day in 1995 when Gov. John Rowland signed the landmark legislation, 16 new buildings have sprouted in Storrs alone, and another 16 have been renovated. Behind the scenes, more than 70 classrooms have been fitted with the latest technological advances, and a new underground infrastructure has been built to provide heat, water, and cooling systems to new and old buildings alike.

This semester students and faculty returning to campus get their first look at the new Visitors Center at the corner of Hillside and North Eagleville roads, and a completely renovated Northwest Campus, complete with a new glass-enclosed dining hall featuring a food court style of dining. Northwest also features - for the first time since the early 1970s - six residence halls reserved for freshmen. They are joined by about 85 upper classmen who will serve as mentors and role models.

Adjacent to Northwest, North Campus residence halls now have a state-of-the-art alarm system, sprinklers, and new lighting and ceiling in the corridors.

Other dramatic changes will begin cropping up this semester, most prominently a 13-unit apartment-style housing complex between Alumni Drive and Separatist Road, and a new U-shaped residence hall that will be added to the Hilltop Complex. The two projects will add about 1,400 beds to the University's housing stock, clearing the way for enrollment management officials to build on the excitement that has brought record numbers of students to Storrs during the past three years.

Construction also began in late August on a 101-room hotel, located behind Lewis B. Rome Commons on South Campus, that will be a boon to faculty working to bring academic conferences to campus.

And, within the next few weeks, workers will begin excavating the hill at the intersection of Stadium and Hillside roads, clearing the way for a 1,500-space parking garage and a new, 53,000-square-foot building to house the UConn Co-op. Both structures are expected to be finished by May. The current mid-campus store will be razed as soon as the Co-op moves into the new building. The location will become green space and will be saved as a potential building site for the future.

Bolton Road, which runs between E.O. Smith High School and the Fine Arts complex, will be extended to Hillside Road to alleviate traffic heading to the new garage, keeping the largest volume of traffic on the perimeter of campus. Once work begins on the road, probably within the next month, it will take four months to complete.

Other projects nearing completion or about to begin include:

  • Construction of the new School of Business Administration on Hillside Road is on time and on budget, with faculty and staff expecting to move in next summer. Classes will begin in the facility for the start of the 2001-2002 academic year;

  • Work on the biophysics building on North Eagleville Road, stalled earlier this year when the general contractor was terminated, is expected to begin again within a month. A new contractor, Turner Construction Co. of Milford, has been hired and the project is expected to be completed within a year;

  • The new Central Warehouse, a massive structure behind the Public Safety Complex, will open in mid-October. The building will house accounts payable, mail services, traffic and parking services, the purchasing department and the print shop, and will also provide warehousing space. Once the various departments move in, the old warehouse will be used as swing space for the School of Nursing while Storrs Hall is renovated, and for other departments with space needs. Ultimately, it will be razed and the space left vacant for future building needs;

  • A contractor has recently been identified for the renovation of the Wilbur Cross Building into a one-stop shopping area for student's business needs, from registration to financial aid to telecommunications and residential life. The first - and largest - phase of the project, converting the rear two-thirds of the former library, is expected to be completed by next summer, allowing staff to vacate the two reading rooms and other offices on the second and third floors of the building. That section will then be renovated, with the reading rooms refurbished and converted into event and conference rooms;

  • The old Apple Salesroom has been gutted and is being renovated to house the Museum of Natural History. Offices for staff of the museum, built under the UConn 2000 program, will be ready within months and exhibit space will be created with support from a private fund-raising campaign;

  • Waring Chemistry Building renovations, scheduled for completion in June 2001, will open space for the main functions of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the English and geography departments. Classroom space also will be created in the building;

  • The new Marine Sciences Institute at Avery Point will open in February 2001. In addition, further renovations are commencing on the Branford House, to be completed by May 2001;

  • At the Hartford Campus, work has started on a new computer center which, when completed next summer, will allow creation of a community center on the lower level of the School of Social Work. The community center is being funded through a donation from Judith Zachs, '77, and her family.

Next year, the pace won't slow. Work will begin in May 2001 on the first of a three-phase project to renovate and add to the Student Union. The first phase of the project will add a 500-seat movie theater, office and meeting space to the side of the building nearest to Jorgensen Auditorium. A second phase will renovate and add to the center section of the building. And the third phase, which won't begin for several years, will reconstruct and add to the building's south wing.

At about the same time, renovations will begin on either Monteith or Arjona Building, with the second building renovated during the summer of 2002. Plans call for the two buildings' exteriors and roofs to be completely replaced, while air conditioning, elevators and restrooms will be redone inside the buildings.

In Waterbury, planners are finishing creating an academic plan for the new downtown location, and design and construction of the building is expected to start next June. The 95,000-square-foot, three-story building on East Main Street should be completed by August 2002. And in Torrington, a new agricultural center will open in November.

Richard Veilleux