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  September 23, 2002

Newest Fruits of UConn 2000
Include Co-op IT, Biology Buildings
By Richard Veilleux

A new bookstore, enhanced residence halls, and a better way to enter and exit the Storrs campus this fall highlight the latest developments in campus construction. At the same time, faculty in engineering and the biological sciences wait with bated breath, as contractors rush to complete a pair of new academic buildings.

The new UConn Co-op will open for business next month, says William Simpson, the store's general manager. The dramatically designed building at the corner of Hillside and Stadium roads, with sharp angles on the outside and high ceilings on the inside, increases the store's space by nearly 20,000 square feet.

Image: Information Technology Building
The new Information Technology Building under construction between Homer Babbidge Library and the new School of Business Building, is scheduled for completion this winter.

Photos by Peter Morenus

A view of the new UConn Co-op on Hillside Road, which is expected to open next month.

The extra space allows for the installation of a cyber café, complete with outdoor seating, greater merchandise selections, and on-site

storage. The store also will accommodate a People's Bank and the store's computer repair operations, until now housed in a building in Willington.

"People will be pleasantly wowed by the space inside," says Simpson. "Everybody's seen the outside, which has turned heads. I think we'll get a similar reaction inside."

Besides the main entrance, Co-op patrons will be able to access the store from either the first or second floors of the South Parking Garage.

People leaving the garage or Co-op will soon have another way to exit campus, says Larry Schilling, University architect. The Bolton Road Extension, connecting Route 195 to Hillside Road in an effort to divert traffic from residential neighborhoods to the University's south, will be completed by Nov. 1. The new road also is expected to ease the morning and evening traffic crunch on Mansfield Road and Route 195 north of Mirror Lake.

Meanwhile, Philip Yeagle's long wait for the day he and his colleagues would move into the climate-controlled space inside the new Biological Sciences Building is about to end.

Faculty and staff from the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, which Yeagle heads, together with several physics professors and staff from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, will move into the new facility in January. The dozens of research labs that line two long hallways which merge above Auditorium Road, and two 150-seat classrooms that jut off the side of the building onto the plaza level of the Edward V. Gant Science Complex, will be open for business in December.

The building includes a 22,000 square-foot physics addition for accelerator and laser technology research.

The building also will become home to more than 125,000 specimens - birds, mammals, fish, parasites, and vascular plants among them - from the University's natural history collection. The collection, much of which has been held in storage or hidden from view in the outdated Torrey Life Sciences Building, will be filed in a more "student-friendly" manner. Much of it will be displayed, and all of it will be accessible, says Les Mehrhoff, collection manager for the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Yeagle says the new building will give his faculty the equipment and laboratories they need to advance their research.

"We'll be going from substandard research space to state-of-the-art. This will have a significant effect on our research programs, including those of several new faculty who came here - really bright young scientists - partly because of the space they were promised in this building," he says.

Their excitement will be shared with faculty and staff from the departments of electrical engineering and computer engineering who, just weeks later, will be moving to their new academic home. The Information Technology Building is a 119,000 square-foot, $34 million facility located between the School of Business and the Homer Babbidge Library on Fairfield Way.

Work on the building, which began a year ago, has proceeded at a dramatic pace and is well ahead of schedule. The structure is filled with laboratories and offices, two high-tech classrooms, and a 350-seat lecture hall.

Renovation work has been completed in the Wilbur Cross Building. Enrollment management and the main offices of the Division of Student Affairs have moved into their third-floor suites, and the building's two reading rooms - restored to their original luster - have reopened as study- and event-space.

A dedication of the building is provisionally scheduled for Nov. 20.

To the north of campus, ground has been broken on both the North Campus Apartment Complex and the North Campus Suites, as well as on the Greek Village, Schilling says. Expected to be completed by late August 2003, the combined projects will add nearly 1,300 beds to the University's housing stock, easing what has been an annual crunch for the last five years, since the University's enrollment began to burgeon. The three projects also will add to the variety of residential opportunities from which students may choose.

Several existing residence halls - Shippee, Buckley, and the four buildings that comprise Alumni Quad - were upgraded during the summer. Sprinkler systems were installed in the buildings - as well as in Hicks and Grange residence halls - and the buildings' electrical systems, lighting, and elevators were modernized.

Back on Fairfield Way, the building that has served the community's textbook, clothing, and paper goods needs for nearly 30 years is rushing to its final days. Once all merchandise has been moved in early October, the old UConn Co-op will close. Less than two months later, says Schilling, the building will be razed, and the site will be returned to green space, awaiting the day when yet another new building - this one under the auspices of 21st Century UConn - stands ready to serve the community.