Capital projects remain on track

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Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

As several of Yale’s major capital projects are set to be finished within the next decade, senior administrators remain confident in the proposed timelines for their construction.

With the renovations to the nave of Sterling Memorial Library and the Hall of Graduate Studies, as well as the construction of the two new residential colleges and the Yale Biology Building all set to be completed between 2014 and 2019, Yale is facing a period of both transition and excitement, according to senior administrators. Despite a $39 million budget deficit and the potential for future administrative cuts, capital project developments remain on time. Even fundraising for the new colleges — which are to be entirely donor-sponsored — is set to be completed by the end of the year, though the colleges still needed an additional $80 million in funds in October 2013.

“Things have been going well,” University Provost Benjamin Polak said. “A lot of alumni want to be a part of this project. The idea of having more Yale College students is just a very appealing idea to everybody. Everyone is excited about the idea — it’s clearly infectious.”

A committee overseeing the development of the new colleges, co-chaired by Polak and Yale College Dean Mary Miller, has been divided into four subcommittees, Polak said. Topics investigated by the subcommittees include the size and number of classrooms and laboratory spaces, demands for sections, advising resources and extracurricular student life. The committee members will have to determine whether drama groups will have enough space to rehearse, for example, Polak said.

According to Polak, the University will stagger the first stages of occupancy in the new colleges, so that 200 new freshmen will be admitted to the colleges in 2016, one year before the construction is finished in 2017. The freshmen will live in Swing Space, then move to the new colleges in their sophomore year, along with a new wave of admitted freshmen.

“If everything works exactly on time, by the time the sophomores arrive, there will be enough built to put both freshmen and sophomores into the new colleges,” Polak said. “That’s the plan.”

Along with the new colleges, the construction of the Yale Biology Building and the renovations to both HGS and Sterling Memorial Library also appear to be on schedule.

Ronald Breaker, chair of the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department, said the biology building’s anticipated completion date of August 2019 is unlikely to be moved up because certain planning and financial issues must be clarified before groundbreaking begins.

“I am certain that ‘YBB Grand Opening’ already appears on [senior administrators’] calendars for August 2019, and many people in the administration and elsewhere are already working to make this happen,” he said.

Breaker added that science faculty members have recently gathered to discuss methods of maximizing the benefits of the new building. Breaker said discussions have emphasized the need for greater interdisciplinary research and larger classroom space, adding that the best ideas will be incorporated into architects’ building plans.

“Barring unforeseen major financial calamity, I am confident that we will solve the structural deficit problem and be able to start the YBB project as scheduled,” said Steven Girvin, Deputy Provost for Science and Technology.

The Sterling Memorial Library nave restoration will be completed before the start of the next academic year, said Associate University Librarian Ken Crilly. The stone inside the nave and the ceilings have been cleaned and restored, while many of the large windows have also been repaired. In a few weeks, restoration on the mural of Alma Mater will commence, he said. Crilly estimated the project was halfway completed.

While Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Tom Pollard said the renovation committee has not met recently, he added that the HGS renovations are on track and unlikely to be affected by the current financial position of the University.

According to a Sept. 3 email to the Yale community, Polak said the renovation of the exterior of Payne Whitney Gymnasium will cost $30 million and will be completed in August 2014. The expansion and renovation of Sterling Chemistry Laboratory will begin in July 2014, finish in the fall of 2016, and cost $130 million.

The renovation of the President’s House, the soon-to-be residence of University President Peter Salovey located at 43 Hillhouse Ave., will finish in the fall of 2014. Its estimated cost is $17 million, all of which has been gift-funded.

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