With cranes already towering above and workers bustling around the site, the University officially broke ground on the two new residential colleges yesterday.

“Two years from now, in 2017, this bustling construction site will have been transformed to a place of architectural splendor and a thriving hub of student activity,” University President Peter Salovey said. “And the year 2017 will be a particularly auspicious one for this particular moment in Yale history.”

On Thursday afternoon, roughly 150 alumni, administrators, faculty, students and members of the Yale Corporation filled into a tent outside of Ingalls Rink to celebrate the official start of construction on the two new colleges, a project set to be completed over the next two and a half years. The invite-only event included speeches from Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, former University President Richard Levin, project architect and Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern, and former Senior Fellow of the Yale Corporation Edward Bass ’67 ARC ’72. The groundbreaking was an opportunity to acknowledge the donors who supported the project and to further outline the vision of this “new Yale,” Salovey said in his remarks. Still, some details, most notably the names of the two colleges, are yet to be disclosed.

“As you can tell from the heavy equipment and the amazing construction towers across the street, the ground for the project has already been broken,” Holloway said. “We are not actually at a groundbreaking … but I like to think of this moment instead as a celebration.”

Work on the site began in the fall. Though the original groundbreaking was slated to occur in February, the event was moved to the spring to due to concerns of weather and convenience, Salovey told the News in February.

However, with temperatures in the 60s on Thursday, University leaders — hard-hats and shovels in hand — were able to walk around a portion of the construction site and pose for ceremonial photos with the mounds of dirt and concrete foundations in the background.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said the construction will make a “huge economic difference” in the city.

“I think we are very excited about the construction and what it means to the vibrancy of the city,” Harp told the News. “One of the things we are pleased with is the agreement we have with Yale … [that means] New Haven residents and contractors of color [and] small businesses can participate in this project.”

For major construction projects such as the two new residential colleges, city policy mandates that a certain percentage of construction jobs must go to city residents, minorities, women and small businesses from the city. For the new colleges, at least 125 New Haven residents will be employed on the construction site in some capacity, Nichole Jefferson, executive director of the Commission on Equal Opportunities, told the News in March.

Levin described the groundbreaking as a “dream come true” following years of planning and delays following the 2008–09 financial crisis, which brought a halt to the project in 2008. He thanked major donors in attendance such as Len Baker ’64, Roland Betts ’68, Bass and most notably, Charles Johnson ’54, who donated $250 million to the project, the largest gift in University history, in 2013.

Despite the a particularly difficult winter in New Haven, Senior Fellow Margaret Marshall LAW ’76 said she was proud of how much progress had been made on the site.

“When the people mentioned today were first talking about [the creation of two new colleges], it seemed like an enormous undertaking, which it is,” Marshall said. “My only regret is that I won’t be here for the 50th reunion of the first graduating class.”

At the end of his speech, Salovey announced that the University would be putting together a time capsule of mementos and memorabilia, the contents of which would be opened on the occasion of the 50th reunion of the first graduating class from the colleges.

Some of the object to be placed in the large metal case — which will be located in a wall in an underground corridor connecting the two colleges — include Thursday’s issue of the News, the New Haven Register, the architects’ renderings of the colleges and photos from the groundbreaking.

With all the pomp and circumstance of the event and many of Yale’s most influential leaders all gathered under one tent, the anticipation of whether Salovey would use this opportunity to announce the names was palpable. However, he dismissed the idea that today would be that occasion.

“[The two colleges], like their 12 predecessors, will become unique communities with their own tradition and identities, with their own mascots with their own nicknames, with their own rivalries and with their own camaraderie,” Salovey said. “And sometime soon, their actual own names.”