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Two new buildings planned to replace Arjona, Monteith

by Richard Veilleux - September 4, 2007

UConn officials have decided to replace the aging Arjona and Monteith buildings with two structures fronting Fairfield Way, rather than one massive building at the former site of the UConn Co-op.

Following a series of deliberations during the summer with deans and department heads, the University’s master planner, architects, and others, the group decided that replacing the social sciences and humanities buildings with a single structure located between the Homer Babbidge Library and Hawley Armory was not feasible.

“By early summer, it became increasingly apparent that any affordable alternative plan regarding the new building and library access would result in compromises that no one was happy with,” says James Bradley, associate vice president for architectural and engineering services.

“It also became increasingly clear from a programming as well as a campus and especially a local neighborhood standpoint, that the proposed new building might simply be too big.”

The planning group had been discussing whether to replace the two buildings, both constructed in 1959, with two new buildings or a single, multi-story, 180,000-square-foot structure on the site of the former Co-op.

The proposal for a single building fell increasingly out of favor as discussions continued, because a building of that size would have crowded the Armory, the Bousfield Psychology Building, and the library.

That crowding, together with the building’s height, would have created a “canyon effect,” says Bradley.

It also would have created a problem with deliveries to the library, since the main access road to Babbidge – a short, narrow street curving up from Mansfield Road – would have been blocked by the new building. Many of the possible solutions discussed would create conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles.

When a large outcrop of rock was discovered at the site during test borings, the fate of the earlier plan was sealed. A new, smaller building will avoid the outcropping.

The new plan proposes one building of approximately 115,000 square feet at the former Co-op site, and a second, roughly 75,000-square-foot building, on space formerly occupied by the Hewitt Pharmacy Building.

The architectural group Leers Weinzapfel will begin the design phase of the projects in the near future, after decisions have been made regarding how classrooms and offices will be assigned to each building, says George Kraus, interim director of planning and project development.

Construction is expected to start sometime in 2009, with a goal of completion in 2011.

Until construction begins, the site of the old pharmacy building will remain a grassy entrance to the Student Union Mall, which is currently being renovated and landscaped.

Fencing will remain in place until spring, allowing the new lawn time to become established.”

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