Center of campus construction continues

Skiles walkway will be closed on Dec. 20 to allow construction crews to take over the area to reconfigure the path with the new Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC) and to expand the path for easier pedestrian flow. The Facilities department chose the date to minimize confusion for people on campus.

The Skiles alleyway, which lies between the south end of Skiles Classroom building, the Coon Building and the Tin Building, will be the primary detour for students, faculty and staff to get through the center of campus. Currently, the alleyway is part sidewalk and part parking lot for Facilities’ vehicles, but construction will take over the area in three to four weeks to begin to reconfigure the area into a primary pedestrian artery for campus to help alleviate the disturbance associated with the closing of Skiles walkway.

Originally, Facilities had planned to build an adjacent, temporary pathway next to Skiles walkway, but they decided against such a scenario.

“The administration decided to pull [the alleyway] project forward in order to create less issues with pedestrians in a construction zone,” said John Duconge with the Facilities Department at the CULC town hall meeting on Tuesday, June 29.

“We noticed that when we tried to redirect Skiles that no matter how many signs we put up, it was confusing,” said Dustin Hodges with Turner Construction.

The hope is that the new path from the Skiles alleyway project will continue to be a major pedestrian corridor even after Skiles walkway reopens.

“I consider this a pull forward activity for the campus master plan. It will go along with the landscaping and hardscaping around campus…. It made sense [to do this project now] because it allows to take over the entire Skiles walkway from the Price Gilbert library to the student center,” said Brian Burleigh, project manager for the alleyway project from Turner Construction.

Currently, the alleyway construction is planned to be completed by Dec. 1 so that the when students and faculty return from winter break in Jan. they can begin use of the new pathway.

“Our goal is not disrupt any day-to-day activities during the semester. In between semesters is the perfect time to make changes,” Burleigh said.

Facilities said part of the reason a renovation of the alleyway is planned was because of the crime issues in the area during the Spring 2009 semester. When students returned from spring break last year, they found that Skiles walkway had been closed for utility work, forcing many students to use the path through the Coon and Weber buildings. On one evening, two students were robbed at gunpoint while using the cut through.

The hope is that the renovated alleyway will be more open, better lit and have an emergency call box along the path. According to Facilities, such conditions will reduce the chances of a similar incident from occurring in the area.

The Price Gilbert Library plaza on the eastern end of Skiles walkway will also undergo extensive renovation including the removal of the library fountain.

While the entire plaza area will be under some construction, the main entrance to the library will remain accessible throughout the process.

In conjunction with the CULC work in the center of campus, the sidewalk, which runs from the Student Center Commons to the Bunger Henry Building, will also be closing about the same time as Skiles walkway and is also scheduled to be reopened sometime next June. The need to close this path stems from work being done on Tech Green and the 1.5 million gallon cistern that is being installed under the center-of-campus park. Major work on Tech green itself will begin in September.

The cistern is a primary sustainable feature for the CULC and the surrounding area. The water retention system will help with the irrigation of the area and other parts of campus. Some of the water retained from storm water will also be used in some of the plumbing aspects of the CULC.

The designers of the CULC intend for the building to be LEED Gold certified, one of the highest sustainability ratings a building can receive. Other environmentally friendly features on the building include a roof garden on the fifth floor, solar panels and a bay-atrium system that will allow sunlight to penetrate into the center of the building.

“One of the components of the sustainability efforts with the building is bringing daylight into the center of the building…. With the openings [into the atria] that travel all the way down through the center of the building,” Duconge said.

Turner is currently still working on the main structure of the building. The third floor was finished last week with the completion of the final four concrete pours that make up each floor. The first pour of the fourth floor, which is on the southern end of the building near Skiles walkway, was scheduled for this week.

All the floors major structure components are scheduled to be completed by August allowing exterior work to commence at the beginning of the fall semester. Once the exterior work is completed sometime around the turn of the year, interior work will start. Major construction is scheduled to be completed by June so that Facilties can prepare the building for classes in Aug. 2011.