Univ. looks to resume science construction

As Yale’s endowment begins to recover, the University is considering resuming construction projects on Science Hill that were postponed when the recession hit, University President Richard Levin said Sunday.

At its meeting over the weekend, the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, did not discuss a timeline for renewing construction, Levin said, but the Corporation will continue to consider the issue this coming summer. In addition, Corporation members on campus over the weekend visited science facilities and learned about top research projects at the University.

“We’re looking at possibilities to address the immediate concerns of research and teaching space without necessarily doing all the great big projects we had coming up in the original plan, before the market crashed,” Levin said.

The top priority on Science Hill is the new Yale Biology Building, which was about to break ground next to Kline Geology Lab on Whitney Avenue when the market crashed in 2008, Levin said. Prior to the recession, the strategic plan for Science Hill also included renovations of many major buildings, including Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, Kline Biology Tower and Sloane Physics Laboratory.

Levin said the need for new research and teaching facilities on Science Hill is “urgent” in some areas, such as certain divisions of the chemistry department. He said that if the endowment continues to make progress, the University may be able to address those concerns earlier than anticipated.

Levin said he and the Office of Development will concentrate some of their efforts in the coming months on soliciting funds specifically for science renovation. (The University will also prioritize fundraising to support Yale’s art schools, in particular the Yale School of Drama, and to bolster the part of the endowment devoted to financial aid, Levin said.)

Still, most of the Corporation members’ weekend was devoted to looking at science programs, not science buildings, Levin said.

Every spring, the trustees take an in-depth look at one aspect of the University. This year, they heard from several of Yale’s top scientists, including chemistry professor Thomas Steitz, co-recipient of a 2009 Nobel Prize. They also took a tour of the new West Campus, which is largely devoted to medical and scientific research.

The Corporation’s buildings and grounds committee also reviewed School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern’s ARC ’65 updated designs for the two new residential colleges. Levin said Yale is not contemplating construction any time soon, but he said he and the Corporation members were impressed by Stern’s developing concept for the colleges.

The Corporation will meet again in May, over Yale’s Commencement weekend.

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