The construction of Benjamin Franklin College and Pauli Murray College marks the most significant addition — both in terms of size and expenses — to Yale’s residential quarters in recent history, city records suggest.
Building permits from the New Haven Building Department reveal that the decadelong project will occupy 300,000 square feet, incur an estimated cost of $300 million and see about 90,000 cubic yards of soil being moved, removed or added to the site at 70 Sachem St.
“The two colleges have really been designed to be complementary in the same way that Ezra Stiles and Morse currently are,” said Murray College Head Tina Lu. “We will be sharing the same gym, we will be divvying up a pool of classrooms, and we will share a theater — we’re pretty clearly going to be part of each other’s communities.”
A 2014 building proposal shows the University’s intent to broadly emulate the features of Yale’s current residential colleges. The proposal shows that similar to current colleges, each new college will have a common room, dining hall, library, academic and recreational spaces and a house for the head in addition to student residences.
Plans submitted to the Building Department indicate that the University is building a theater for the two colleges at the corner of Sachem and Prospect streets. The theater plan also shows a stepped-up plateau with a lawn terrace, precast decking, a gravel area, a 15-inch screen along the north side of Murray College and a significant amount of tree plantings, including the preservation of a large standing beech tree.
According to a development plan adopted by the city’s Building Department on Nov. 16, 2011, the construction of the theater would be reviewed separately by the City Plan Commission and can be expected to complete after that of the colleges.
According to the same document, the University does not plan on providing additional on-site parking other than the two-car garages for each of the two new residential colleges on Prospect and Sachem streets. Any further demand for parking spaces due to the increased number of students and faculty will be satisfied solely through the overall Yale parking plan.
In the 2011 document, the University stipulated that most Yalies circulate around campus on foot or through alternative transportation systems, such as by bike or by shuttle. As a result, the Prospect Walk will receive improved lighting to facilitate better and safer access to other parts of the campus for students living in Benjamin Franklin and Murray College. In an effort to boost “multimodal transportation,” bicycle storage and bicycle racks will be installed throughout the premise of the two new colleges, the plan said.
The University also took the impact on current traffic conditions into consideration when crafting the construction plan for the two colleges. Tighe & Bond, an independent engineering firm, was commissioned to examine how these additional buildings and a larger population will influence traffic and parking.
“Due to the relatively minimal increase in vehicle trips or parking demand generated by this proposal, the new colleges and college theater will have no noticeable or material impact to the surrounding roadway networks and will not adversely impact existing traffic operating conditions,” Tighe & Bond’s report read.
In the 2011 plan, Yale also detailed several improvements to the communities immediate adjacent to the new colleges by working in conjunction with the city, such as an upgrade of traffic signs at the intersection of Prospect and Sachem streets. The University also plans to construct a crosswalk exclusively for pedestrian use midblock on Prospect Street between Canal and Sachem streets, the proposal said.
Lu said she will spend most of her time in the next few months managing the student transfer process and overseeing the hiring process of college staff including a new dean.
“[Head of Franklin College] Bailyn and I have visited the construction sites, and have seen a lot of the exciting features that are being planned for the space,” Lu said. “But [the construction and building process] is not something that we have been involved in discussions for. I think that makes sense, because it is not something that Yale faculty are necessarily equipped to do.”
Lu said the physical features of the new colleges, in particular the sharing of facilities between the two colleges, will shape her initiatives in community building. She added that it is important for the new buildings to stay “more or less the same fabric” as the current residential colleges.
“We do not want one of the north campus colleges to be different in any major way from the current residential colleges,” Lu said. “What makes each college special and wonderful is that they are all living microcosms of Yale College, not that they are different from the college itself.”