Students returning to USF in fall of 2013 can expect some changes to main campus, including the completion of the John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center for Science and Innovation (CSI) building, the renovation of the McLaren Conference Center entrance, the renovation of Phelan Hall bathrooms and addition of dorm rooms, as well as some construction updates on the USF downtown campus.
Members of the Facilities Management and Project Management staff held a town hall meeting on campus last Wednesday to inform students, faculty, and neighbors of the construction work going on this summer, and to hear comments and concerns about those plans.
Project Manager J.J. Thorp led the discussion, stating there would be “tremendous change” on campus occurring in the next few months. The university has allocated nearly $11 million to summer construction, according to Michael London, assistant vice president of facilities management. This does not include funds for the completion of the CSI building.
CSI construction, which began in 2007, is set to finish by Aug. 17, hopefully clearing the requirements for the city’s Street Space Occupancy Permit — a permit allowing an organization to temporarily occupy a portion of public roadway or sidewalking for construction — by mid-July. “What that means is we can move in furniture and get classrooms accommodated for teaching this fall,” said Thorp. The summer months of CSI construction include installation of lab space and equipment for science classes, the addition of an outdoor fireplace near the side door of Parina Lounge, and the long-awaited removal of the big, green wall that currently extends from the cafeteria doors to a few feet before the library atrium.
The second big construction plan this summer is the transformation and renovation of the McLaren entrance hall and Phelan Hall dorm rooms, respectively, said Thorp. Planning for the projects began in 2009. The entrance to McLaren Center will be reconstructed in order to fulfill San Francisco Fire Department regulations for fire exits and safety, and to better accommodate the renovations in Phelan dorm rooms and bathrooms occurring in the same building. The lower level of the dorm, which was the former home to Residence Life offices and radio station KUSF, will be remodeled to create 50-52 new dorm rooms and several bathrooms with new plumbing, according to Thorp. The dorm project is set to be completed before students move in the next fall academic year, hopefully by Aug. 10.
As for McLaren, London stated the “fondly called Denny’s wall” — that is, the long glass wall that protrudes from the border of the conference center on the side across the University Center — will be eliminated and replaced with a new, wider entrance that can be used both to access the center and Phelan Hall dorms. The bottom floor of McLaren, where the old bookstore used to be, will be renovated to become new classroom space, creating about five or six new rooms. The project is set to complete by Oct. 5.
The downtown campus, located at 101 Howard Street, will also be renovated, along with the project to demolish and rebuild the temporary modular buildings of Underhill Building on Lone Mountain, where ROTC currently trains.
Main concerns voiced mostly by staff members included questions on the effect construction would have on surrounding neighborhoods and prospective students, as well as the what the consequences for not completing construction before the start of the next academic year would be.
“Construction, by definition, is noisy and dirty,” said Thorp. However, community relations staff Patrick Custer and Elizabeth Miles are doing their best to keep surrounding neighborhoods calm and quiet throughout construction, by keeping construction traffic as far away and contained from the University Terrace neighborhood as possible. The Terrace is the several residential blocks located between main campus and Lone Mountain.
As for the issue of scaring off prospective students with all the construction work, Thorp suggested students could “take a look at all the great work we’re doing! Or just come back in the fall.” Project coordinator Kristy Vivas agreed to the idea of taking small groups of faculty and staff on hard hat tours of construction in order to better describe the end results to prospective and curious students. Other options to view the construction include the overlook on UC 4th floor, or if created, a possible virtual online tour.
Junior business administration student, Wesley Baker, is excited for the CSI building to be completed. “That’ll be the main spot on campus,” said Baker. “It’s really futuristic architecture. It’s inspiring. Have you seen the article? It dips underground.” Baker is referring to an exposed lower level floor to the new CSI building.
Another concern, whether or not the construction will end on time, is a question without answer at the moment. “The university is talking to the city about a lot of different things right now,” said Thorp, cautioning the meeting attendees, “so if there are any wrinkles, this all could be in jeopardy.” If all goes well, next year’s campus will be on a new map.
“What happens at the end will be worth the disruption this summer,” said Thorp, confidently.