Campus intensifies construction efforts

Behind the blue tarps veiling much of Yale’s campus, workers are hammering away at the most massive University-wide construction effort in recent memory, and neither the tarps nor the hammers will vanish anytime soon.

The work — ranging from Cross Campus Library renovations to utility overhauls on Science Hill — is slated to cost $400 million this year as compared to roughly $250 million for each of the last few years. The spike in activity marks a stepping-up of Yale’s effort to remold its campus, officials said, and students can expect the current pace of construction to continue for years to come. Developments during the summer included the completion of renovations to Trumbull College, the beginnings of a new History of Art building on York Street, and the digging of an 18-inch-deep depression where Cross Campus used to be.

Mounds of dirt and construction equipment have replaced the grass of Cross Campus as the University renovates Cross Campus Library.
Sophie Perl
Mounds of dirt and construction equipment have replaced the grass of Cross Campus as the University renovates Cross Campus Library.

Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said all the major projects proceeded on schedule over the summer, partly because of favorable weather. The sharp increase in University spending was not the result of a concerted decision, but rather because several big projects came together at the same time, he said.

“All of us who have been around in recent years recognized very early this summer that the level of construction increased significantly this year compared to any time I’ve been around,” said Suttle, who has worked at Yale for more than three decades.

One of the most visible projects is the renovation to Cross Campus Library, which is intended to repair the building’s aging infrastructure and add new study space and entrances, which will include the current below-ground courtyards within the library perimeter. This summer, workers excavated all the soil sitting above the underground library to gain access to its roof, and dismantled the outer walls of Berkeley College that sat on CCL’s foundation. The walls will be restored stone by stone by the time the renovations are finished next summer, Associate University Librarian Danuta Nitecki said.

Since most of the demolition work is already complete, noise pollution around Berkeley should not be a serious problem, Nitecki said.

“Most of the demolition and construction is underground, so the project shouldn’t be too noisy in that regard,” she said. “There will be noise, but they are trying to be sensitive to the needs of the residents.”

University planners aim to reopen the Cross Campus green in time for Commencement ceremonies next spring, Nitecki said.

Work crews also broke ground on a new York Street building, scheduled for completion in two years, that will house an arts library and the History of Art Department. Meanwhile, the Art and Architecture Building next door will also be renovated this year, and its personnel will temporarily move to a new sculpture building in spring 2007. The sculpture building, which is currently under construction at the corner of Park and Howe streets, will include studios and an exhibition space.

Utilities workers are also busy reconstructing the network of steam and chilled water lines on Science Hill. Once that project is finished this fall, work will begin on a new School of Forestry and Environmental Studies building on the current site of the Pierson-Sage power plant.

Director of Facilities Operations Eric Uscinski said the pipe work, which mostly involves rerouting underground lines around Pierson-Sage, is one of the less visible but more challenging efforts in progress.

“It’s a pretty significant project,” Uscinski said. “There’s a lot of holes in the streets.”

On the residential front, workers completed renovations to Trumbull College this summer and began reconstructing Silliman College, which is expected to be an especially difficult job because of its size. In preparation for renovations to Jonathan Edwards College next year, workers are moving utility lines from the college’s basement to the sidewalk in order to create more common space. That effort will be completed over the next week or so, Uscinski said.

While students acknowledged that the capital projects will eventually result in a better Yale, many said the spike in construction has changed the campus’ landscape.

Brock Forsblom ’07 said he was especially disheartened by state of Cross Campus, which he feels is an important part of the University’s character.

“I know it’s all necessary,” he said. “I’m just sad because it’s my senior year and Yale is really ugly.”

Far from central campus, the restoration of the Yale Bowl is nearing an end, though it will not be completed before the season’s first football game is held there, Suttle said. The Afro-American Cultural Center has relocated during the fall semester while it undergoes interior renovations.

Suttle said he expects a number of programs to experience disruptions while work continues on the buildings hosting them, but that such inconveniences are unavoidable due to a shortage of “swing space” to which people can move during the course of construction.

“We all want our building renovated, but there is a certain disruption and inconvenience and noise, and we just can’t do it in the summers,” he said.

The University also plans to complete two new parking garages this year, one on Science Hill and the other on the same site as the sculpture building at Park and Howe streets.

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