A little more than five months after the Board of Trustees voted to begin construction on the science, education and research center on the east side of Main Campus, officials said that the structure should start sprouting out of the ground later this semester.
The $137 million project located at 12th Street and Polett Walk between the College of Engineering building and Gladfelter Hall broke ground earlier this summer, James Creedon, senior vice president of construction, facilities and operations, said. Construction started with shoring up the areas surrounding the construction site.
In early July, the south entrance to the College of Engineering building and the west entrance to Gladfelter were closed off and their windows sealed with plywood to sound proof the building and prevent damage from the construction going on outside, Creedon said.
The sidewalk in front of the construction site was also closed and Creedon said two or three food trucks were moved north on 12th Street out of the way of the construction, but are still in operation.
“We haven’t had any problems, any complaints,” Creedon said of the operators of the food trucks. “They don’t like when they have to move at all, but there’s got to be some flexibility.”
Deputy Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said that CSS has kept an officer on throughout most of the day at 12th Street and Polett Walk to direct traffic, which differs from what CSS used to do, which was to typically keep an officer at the intersection only during peak times and class changes. Leone also said that they are monitoring foot traffic in the area to see if they need to close down additional streets during peak hours on Main Campus.
“We’re monitoring the flow and seeing if there’s a need for us to at some point during class break, close off Norris Street, close off Diamond Street, temporarily until we can get people across the street and reduce some of the traffic,” Leone said.
Leone added that flashing hazard lights will be added on 12th Street before Polett Walk to alert drivers traveling northbound on 12th Street of the upcoming intersection.
The seven-story building is currently in the stages of building the substructure and support structure for the facility and Creedon said that construction would start rising out of the foundation later in the semester.
Creedon talked about the change in academic experience that he believes will come out of the new center, which will be connected to the engineering building and Gladfelter.
“On the first floor we’re going to be creating some brand new, large lecture halls, which are also going to change the academic experience. That’s one of the things we don’t have a lot of is really big lecture halls that can be divided into smaller lecture halls with a lot of flexible space,” Creedon said. “Coming from Barton [Hall] to the new science building is going to be a world of difference.”
Creedon said that researchers and faculty should be moving into the building in Spring 2014, and classes should start there later that fall. The demolition of Barton Hall in the center of Main Campus should come shortly after the new center is completed. He estimates that the best case scenario would be that the demolition would start in Spring 2015.
Nothing will take Barton’s place after it is demolished; the university plans to use the space currently occupied by Barton, which stretches roughly west form 13th Street to Liacouras Walk and south from Norris Street to Polett Walk, as a green space, Creedon said.
Creedon added that he believes the green space is “really going to change the dynamic, the core of [Main Campus].”
Sean Carlin can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.