The Denisonian

Academic Quad renovations cause disruption, but improvements to come

If you are trying to enjoy a nice sunny day near the flagpole on Slayter’s front quad, you might run into some obstacles, literally.

As of April 24, the main entrance and outdoor Slayter common area is encompassed in a wide fence, stretching from edge to edge of the Slayter building.

Despite some expected noise the last few weeks of school and modified routes to class, the construction underway is part of Denison’s multiple year project to make life on the hill a little better for students. Construction for this plan started in the last year with building the Slayter wall and replacing some sidewalks and other structures on A-quad, including the Fellows stairs.

The plan now moves to Phase Two, which includes more work on the Slayter outdoor common area and the entrance to Slayter. The goal is to create a more central gathering place for students by increasing seating areas and replacing the concrete area directly outside of Slayter.

While this phase was supposed to occur over the summer, the school decided to start construction early in order to complete the project by next winter. If all goes well, the project will be done as students return in the fall.

Some students have expressed concern and annoyance at the end of the year construction, but the work being done is hope to only benefit campus.

When we planned the project, we were aware that old water lines ran underneath the plaza and sidewalks. We can find records that the lines were in place as of 1938. We intended to replace the water lines as part of the project – 60 years is the expected useful life of the lines, and we didn’t want to do work on the plaza and risk an old line leaking, and destroy the new plaza as part of the repair.  We considered installing new water lines with a horizontal boring, but as we examined that option it turned out to cost more and would be noisier than installing via a trench – the trench, unfortunately, does require that we dig up concrete. Also, one of the key improvements of the project is to expand and improve the flagpole area plaza, and we have to dig up the existing plaza for grading and the wider space,” said David English, Chief Financial officer and Vice President for Finance & Management for Denison.

These water pipes are over 80-years-old, and while they are in okay condition, their replacement was inevitable. With the new renovations, it only made sense to replace the lines and concrete now.

“The work will cost approximately $1,000,000 and  much of the cost will be replacing old water lines and addressing maintenance on the roof of the Slayter pit, balconies and interior bathrooms. The academic quad renovations are funded by Denison’s annual maintenance allocation and a portion of the maintenance bonds Denison issued in 2017,” said English.

The construction is aimed to address aging infrastructure, structural issues on the face of Slayter, accessibility into and inside of Slayter and access to single stall and gender-neutral bathrooms.

The only entrance to Slayter that is barred off is the main entrance. All other entrances operate the same and outdoor seating will be moved to the Reese-Shackelford Common space behind Slayter.

“I think this will benefit campus in several ways: the second phase of the plaza project will add needed exterior community space – essentially an outside continuation of Slayter Student Union; the interior work on Slayter will provide greater accessibility to the Slayter pit and gender-neutral restrooms on the main floor of Slayter; and the maintenance work, while not glamorous, is needed reinvestment to ensure that our facilities and utilities function safely,” said English, reassuring the students who are confused by the construction this semester.

In addition, construction has started on replacing the concrete that lays over the water line, which means there will be added noise to students’ daily lives. However, the construction is planned to be stopped during days where finals take place (May 9,10, 12, 14 and 15), but not on the study days in between finals. Construction will also be halted of Baccalaureate on May 18 and Commencement on May 19. Senior students are advised to be on the lookout for changes to scheduled events, such as faculty coffee on commencement morning. The location for this will be at Reese-Shackelford Common.

The final aspect of the renovations, Phase Three, is planned to take place during Summer 2019. This will consist of extending the brick sidewalk outside of Swasey Chapel all the way from Knapp to the Library.

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