West Chester University has recently started the early stages of construction in the Lawrence parking lot, which currently resembles something close to a war zone with all the holes and hills of dirt. But soon, the dirt will bring “The Commons Project” into fruition. The University is also very close to finishing the construction in Anderson Hall as well.
West Chester University is one of the fastest growing colleges in the state of Pennsylvania. The school is not only growing in enrollment, but also academically. Over the past few years, West Chester University has been updating and constructing new buildings all over campus in order to compensate for the increased student population (about 8.4% increase over the past five years) and to update technology all over campus. Just to name a few, over the past years we have seen an updated food court at Sykes, new outside seating at Sykes and a new business building.
Right now, the two big construction plans taking place on campus is Anderson Hall and the Lawrence parking lot. Anderson Hall used to be the school’s business building and is currently under renovation. The building was very old and outdated before, so the school is planning on making it a lot more modern from the inside out. According to Kathleen Dijoseph, the Assistant Executive Director of Facilities Design and Construction at West Chester University, the anticipated renovations include a state-of-the-art help desk area, larger collaborative classrooms, updated hands-on computer labs, additional break-out areas designed to provide more opportunities for a variety of learning experiences and updates to faculty offices. Anderson Hall is expected to be back up and running by Jan. 2019 and is expected to be open for the upcoming 2019 spring semester.
However, the biggest construction project by far on campus is currently in the Lawrence parking lot, otherwise known as “The Commons Project.” The Project is anticipated to be finished by the fall semester of 2020, barring no setbacks. It is planned to be 176,000 square feet, and a new parking garage is also to be built with about 460 spots to accommodate the loss of part of D-lot. The North Campus Drive Parking Structure will more than double the spaces previously available in the Lawrence lot (D-Lot). The Commons Project’s main intention is to provide a brand new engineering, health science center and a new dining facility. The current dining hall (Lawrence) will remain operating until the school’s new dining facility is ready to open.
According to Dijoseph, in a past article written in the Quad, the new dining area will feature exhibition cooking, a coffee shop, a market, a grab-and-go and a new upscale restaurant that can be used for student functions. The facility will be located in D-lot, in the area next to Tyson Hall, replacing the boiler plant.
With all the construction taking place on campus, some students have found it somewhat inconvenient to navigate through campus, especially considering the fact that the Commons Project is right in the middle of north campus. Students and faculty who have to walk through D-lot to get to class, the Student Rec Center or even the Lawrence Dining Hall are now forced to walk all the way around the construction. However, through multiple surveys and data on the subject, the data was found to be skewed,since most upperclassmen live off campus and do not visit this part of north campus often. As for the younger students, this construction is all they know; they have never experienced the full “convenience” of being able to walk through a construction-free Lawrence lot.
Even though the construction may inconvenience some students, the expansion is pivotal to the overall growth of West Chester University. The new facilities and renovations are necessary to accommodate changes among the academic community, particularly though the elevated interest in the health science department.
Over the past few years, the College of Health and Sciences has been expanding, and the new facility will provide space for West Chester’s Immersive Learning Center with labs and classrooms. They will also have designated space for faculty research. The goal of the university is to bring a majority of the College of Health and Sciences’ programs into the heart of West Chester University’s north campus, as opposed to the current setup, where a majority of the programs reside on the school’s south campus.
According to the West Chester University website, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects a 23 percent growth in the number of biomedical jobs needed by 2024. Thus, the new building will provide the perfect storm to present the university’s first engineering major, biomedical engineering. By applying biology and science methodologies with engineering principles, students will be able to develop equipment such as prosthetics, artificial organs and imaging devices, as well as procedures that will ultimately help lessen a number of health problems found in populations around the globe.
According to the WCU website, “facility features include advanced laboratories, modern academic program space, state-of-the-art simulation, as well as dedicated dining and conference services. The building is destined to transform the way WCU students think, work, and prepare for high-performance careers, while redefining the University’s landscape for all.”
Ferris Berlin is a fourth-year student majoring in economics and finance with a minor in journalism. FB845767@wcupa.edu