Master Plan Progress Continues

Master+Plan+Progress+Continues

Photo by Emily Wolfrum

Emily Wolfrum, Editor-in-Chief

Pace’s Master Plan saw the complete renovation of Kessel Student Center during winter vacation. With the addition of new dining spaces, lounges, offices, and a multipurpose room, Senior Vice President COO for Westchester William McGrath says the “biggest milestone” has been reached.

“With few exceptions, [the Master Plan] is pretty much behind one fenced area,” McGrath said. “With the new main entrance to Kessel, the construction zone has shrunk a lot.”

According to McGrath, the most difficult part of the Master Plan is now behind Pace as projects shift away from the center of campus.

“The goal I’ve had for the project all along was that the [previous] fall semester was going to be the most construction at once, the most imposing on the campus community, and the most challenging, and that every semester after that would get a lot better,” McGrath said. “The idea is to to get all of it done as quickly as we can and shrink the construction zone. Finishing Alumni Hall will be a major step.”

The completion of Alumni Hall, which is on time for this August, will be the last major goal of the Master Plan’s first phase. Additional projects will include the installment of lampposts across campus, a pond overlook on Shirley Beth’s Way, and a small bridge over the stream between Kessel and Mortola.

Updates to academic buildings will also be made in Willcox and Miller Halls. Students can anticipate the transformation of Willcox Gym into a 150-person lecture hall and the movement of the media and communications department to the building’s third floor. Miller Lecture Hall is set to be leveled and divided into three separate classrooms.

“While we’re doing all of this for campus life and living spaces, we’re also acknowledging academic priorities,” McGrath said.

Additional academic benefits can be seen through the creation of several study lounges and a classroom in the new Alumni Hall. The new residence, which will accommodate 477 students, including 15 residential staff members, will also feature food services and an outdoor portal through which students can walk from upper campus to the new campus quad.

“It’s going to be the best residence hall on campus with the study lounges and learning communities,” McGrath said. “It’s going to enable those communities to thrive because of the shared common study space and the study lounges right in the building. It’s going to enable students to work with their faculty members and connect with each other on whatever projects they’re working on and through social activities.”

Alumni Hall will be open to both freshmen and upperclassmen for Fall 2015 semester. Although designed exclusively for first-year students, a recent petition by students prompted residential life to reconsider until additional halls are completed.

“For the first year we can have a mix of upperclassmen and freshmen because people here have been patient with the construction and have a desire to be in the building,” McGrath said. “I thought that was a very reasonable request by the students to say, ‘hey, what about us?’”

Residence Hall B, which is designed as an upperclassmen dorm comparable to New Dorm, is scheduled to be complete for Fall 2016. Its addition will provide enough beds to move all 580 students from Briarcliff onto the Pleasantville campus.

Until then, both Howard Johnson Hall and Dow Hall are expected to be open for the Fall 2015 semester. Office spaces in Briarcliff will remain, however, it is unlikely that dining services will be available. Alerie Tirsch, Director of Residential Life is working to develop alternatives for students.

“We are currently working with dining services to create a special meal plan package for Briarcliff students. This will include more flex dollars than a regular meal plan. In addition, dining services is working to provide vending machines and food services… in Dow,” Tirsch wrote of the plans.
The eventual replacement of the townhouses with apartment-style residencies and addition of Residence Hall C will provide upperclassmen with abundant living spaces and allow North Hall to be converted entirely to offices.

Alumni Hall will be the primary freshmen living space.

“The idea is that for freshmen, you generally want the space to encourage less staying in the room and more being outside. You want freshmen dorms to be lower privacy, more oversight, and as you become a senior you want more privacy, less oversight, so you design the buildings that way,” McGrath said.

He believes that in designing year-specific housing, the university can improve retention.

“The thing about graduation rates and retention is that a big factor is first year engagement. It’s very common to have a freshmen residence hall with study lounges, a faculty apartment, and [a residential life staff] that is getting people together based on common interests,” McGrath said. “So, the way you build the building allows for that. You put freshmen in one place and you program that building with activities that would help them to succeed.”

So far, nearly all Master Plan projects are running on schedule. Work on athletic fields was delayed due to recent weather concerns, but are expected to be complete for the upcoming fall semester.

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New Addition of Kessel Student Center
NEWS-Alumni Hall
Alumni Hall Floor Plan (Residence Hall A)