Campus construction continues
McAlister Place took its first breath of fresh air last week, nearly complete after six months concealed behind a sheath of fences and heavy machinery. While students strolled freely across the newly-paved surface, its opening marked an end to the first of many planned construction projects on the Uptown campus.
The project’s completion, which cost $1.5 million, took nearly a month longer than expected, due largely to heavy rainfall. It included reconfiguring drainage, expanded landscaping and the conversion of the former street, McAlister Drive, into a large pedestrian and bicycle path.
For some students, the opening was a welcome change.
“I am satisfied overall,” sophomore Brian Helbig said. “There is certainly a new, more collegiate look to McAlister now.”
University Architect Collette Creppell said that McAlister Place is the first in a series of projects designed to make the campus friendlier to pedestrians and more accommodating to student activities.
Creppell said the Newcomb-McAlister Unified Green will eventually connect all of the quads and buildings on what she describes as middle campus — the property between Freret and Willow streets.
Not all reviews by students and faculty, however, have been favorable.
“Pointless waste of money,” sophomore Will Myers said. “They took a road, closed it for half a year and managed to make a skinnier road. I just wish the landscaping looked better. I used to be able to drive through campus. That was beautiful.”
Freshman Rebecca Smith, who lives off campus and commutes to school from her home nearby, said that the project is an improvement, but has not come without tradeoffs.
“It looks very nice right now, but it takes away from parking,” Smith said. “I carpool here with friends and it is much more difficult finding my way from class. You have to get creative finding your way around.”
Dinwiddie and Newcomb Renovations
Two of Tulane’s oldest buildings are also undergoing changes.
Newcomb Hall is in the final stages of modifications designed to bring the building up to American with Disabilities Act standards, including the installation of ramps on the side of the building by Broadway Street and the completion of a new elevator lobby.
Myers, said he agrees with plans to renovate the building, but is frustrated with the construction work.
“I had a Spanish class in Newcomb [Hall] last year, and there was literally construction going on across the hall,” Myers said. “I thought Tulane was serious about education, but apparently [the university] can’t afford to do the work at night or during the summer, when classes aren’t taking place.”
Dinwiddie Hall, constructed in 1923, is undergoing a complete renovation that is the first part of a campus-wide effort to bring LEED certification to all buildings.
“One of the most sustainable things you can is to keep the structure of an older building.” Creppell said.
Creppell said that the projects involve a concept known as embodied energy, or the idea that you can save many of the resources in new construction by keeping essential elements of an old structure.
The renovated Dinwiddie Hall should be completed this summer, and will become the new home of the anthropology department, and the Middle American Research Institute and its collection of artifacts.
Residential College II
Construction on Residential College II has commenced, with initial drainage work on Newcomb Place underway.
“The new building will serve as a continuation of the residence hall concept that started with the opening of Wall Residential College back in 2005,” Creppell said. Many of Wall’s features — including a library, outdoor lounge and faculty apartment space — will appear in the new structure.
The new building, slated for construction prior to Hurricane Katrina, is expected to house 267 residents.
The construction was delayed after the university reopened, and Tulane has used that time to modify the building to meet changed building codes and Leadership in Energy in Environmental Design certification.
Helbig, a sophomore currently living in Monroe Hall, said it’s about time.
“If the university is going to force sophomores to live on campus, they ought to provide accommodations that don’t involve trailers or, in my case, halls designed for freshmen,” Helbig said.
Residential College II is expected to be completed in time for the Fall 2011 semester, and will house mostly first- and second-year students.