Argus Wesleyan | Public affairs center and art gallery construction project paves the way

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c / o Magda Kisielinska, photo editor

The John E. Andrus Center for Public Affairs (PAC) and the Art Gallery building project started on Tuesday June 1st. The project will redevelop the PAC building and add a new art gallery between the PAC and the Olin Library. According to the director of construction and infrastructure, Alan Rubacha, the clearance will be virtually complete by Friday, October 1, with the mass demolition ending shortly after.

The entire project, which will entail a total cost of $ 56.4 million, is expected to be completed in spring 2024. The departments of economics, government, history, sociology and the College of Social Studies (CSS ), which are typically housed within the PAC, have been relocated to various campus buildings including 318 High St., 330 High St., 212 College St., 37 Broad St., and 110 Mt. Vernon St.

“With the future COVID-19 and weather variables unknown at this time, our best schedule projection has the project completed and busy for classes at some point in the spring semester of 2024,” Rubacha wrote in an e -mail to The Argus. “We will have a better understanding in a year. “

The current PAC construction area, which is closed with fences to protect students, faculty, staff and campus visitors and to allow the construction team to work safely, will remain closed until the end of the day. end of the project.

The project proposal was approved in October 2019 by the Town of Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission. Renovations to the PAC, which was originally built in 1927 as a university residence, include the demolition of the two additions built on the east and west sides in 1954 and the plaza, which was built in 1984. The project will create a new three-story structure in the old plaza, allowing the updated final PAC to house 15 classrooms, 67 faculty offices, six meeting rooms, two lounges and the new CSS main office and library.

The new 5,400-square-foot art gallery will feature pieces from the Davison Art Center’s collection and art installations from students and faculty, following the transfer of the Davison Art Center collection to Olin in 2019.

For university departments that have been relocated due to the construction project, the move to their new offices means their faculty will not be as physically centralized as it had been in the old PAC.

“Physically, one of the challenges is [that the Government Department’s] the administrative office is here in this building [318 High St.] and our teachers are scattered, ”said government department chair Douglas Foyle. “So there is sort of a home here in 318, but there really isn’t a home office any more, so to speak, for the government department.” “

Economics department chairman Gilbert Skillman explained that although the economics faculty has been mostly relocated to 318 High St. and 37 Broad St., with a few other faculty members in other locations, the courses were distributed more widely on campus.

“Economics classes were held wherever classroom space could be found, from Exley to Downey House to music studios and everywhere in between,” Skillman wrote in an e- mail to The Argus.

Foyle also spoke about the impact of closing classrooms in the PAC until construction is complete.

“We had to be a little more flexible in terms of travel times,” said Foyle. “Physics classrooms are not available with PAC classrooms disconnected; there were so many classes there.

For the professors teaching this semester, the move was a minor disruption to getting to class.

“It’s a little less convenient because you just can’t leave your desk and walk down the hall to your classroom,” Foyle said.

Skillman also mentioned the longer commute for faculty members from their relocated offices to their new classrooms, but explained that this was not a major difference.

“We have all been primarily affected by the time and effort it takes to relocate from the PAC, and of course most of us now have to schedule more time to get to our classrooms,” Skillman wrote. “It does not matter.”

Unlike other departments, CSS co-chair and Chester D. Hubbard economics and social science professor John Bonin explained that the CSS department was able to relocate without expanding onto campus.

“We were very lucky that the former president of CSS [Professor of History and Medieval Studies Cecilia Miller] was very involved in the planning process and arranged for us to move the CSS to 330 High Street, ”Bonin said.

However, the construction project limited the department’s ability to host events for majors, as the PAC once housed the department’s lounge and library. These events are usually an integral part of building the community among CSS students in each year of the class.

“We don’t have the capacity to do what we could do in the PAC,” Bonin said. “We had a different space in the PAC, which allowed us to have things like Friday Social, and we had a lounge and a library – students could congregate there. We don’t have that space anymore, so we had to adapt.

Major CSS Chaiyeon Lee ’22 explained that the absence of the central departmental space of the department had an impact on the group bond that usually accompanies the major.

“CSS is really [about] spending a lot of time together, studying together, writing our articles together, being compassionate together… and that’s kind of what builds our community, ”said Lee. “So not having a space that everyone can fit in really hurts one of the most positive aspects of CSS.”

The ongoing pandemic has also worsened the impact of construction on the department, limiting the capacity of classrooms and indoor events.

“It really means that now these activities are pretty much dependent on the weather because we don’t have any indoor space that allows us to do that, and as you well know, right now the COVID protocols all have kinds of restrictions on what you can’t do inside anyway, ”Bonin said. “So we’re doing our best to recreate some of the aspects of the program that are very honestly very popular with students and faculty, but we’re not able to walk the nine meters and do what we can. do when we were in the cap.

Skillman raised the possibility that construction will continue to hamper the Economic Department if COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed before the renovation project is completed.

“Of course, the pandemic is disrupting normal interactions anyway, but once it has passed, the dispersal of our faculty offices across campus and the corresponding loss of convenient departmental meeting space will likely be an ongoing issue. “Skillman wrote.

Rubacha explained that prime contractor FIP Construction has measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among construction crews working on the project.

“Our prime contractor, FIP Construction, is doing a great job protecting the University [from] COVID-19 related disruption, ”Rubacha wrote. “For the context, FIP Construction was building the Center for Film Studies phase 3 when the COVID-19 pandemic began. We have never stopped, never missed a day, or had a case of COVID-19 at work. Teams immediately began installing safety measures such as hand washing stations, cohorts of sub-contractors, and isolating work inside trades before it became common practice. ”

Skillman didn’t think the Economics Department’s new space in the renovated PAC building would be much different from the department’s old offices.

“I don’t think the redesigned space specifically allocated to the Economics department (or any of the PAC departments other than CSS, for that matter) will be a big improvement, if at all,” Skillman wrote. “But I don’t think it was planned.”

Foyle also noted that the eventual return to the renovated space for government ministry will also require another transition for faculty members.

“When we move into our new offices, they will be smaller than our old offices for most of us, so you have to think about that transition as well,” Foyle said.

Although the economics department was inconvenienced by the construction, Skillman believes professors generally agree on the long-term benefits of the renovation.

“I think we all understand that the renovation of the PAC is long overdue and that the renovated building will offer both improved classrooms and significantly expanded public spaces for interactions between students, faculty and staff,” Skillman wrote. “Therefore, offshoring is accepted as a necessary inconvenience. ”

Likewise, while the faculty move was disruptive, Foyle explained that he looked forward to the reshaped CAP.

“In the long run, that’s a good thing,” Foyle said. “The old PAC was a converted dorm and it looked a bit like a converted dorm, so I think we’re all looking forward to the new PAC. I think no one liked to clean their desk, sort, move and everything, but that’s the kind of price you have to pay to get something that’s going to be really cool… We can’t wait for the project to be finished. ”

Jiyu Shin can be reached at [email protected].


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