Renovated Park Hall reopens as School of Education keeps pace with history

Park Hall, SUNY Oswego’s second-oldest building at age 82, reopened this semester at the end of a two-year, $17.5 million modernization, as did a soaring new entrance to the School of Education.

Students in new Park Hall auditoriumPark’s top-to-bottom renovation features a wealth of new opportunities for collaborative teaching and learning, from a more visible Center for Urban Schools to innovative partnerships with the sciences and mathematics in the now-connected Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation.

Dedicated in August 1930 as then-Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt laid the cornerstone, Park Hall opened in 1932. It has served as a cradle for innovation in teacher training since Dr. Joseph C. Park was earning a global reputation for his broad influence on education and the industrial arts.

The renovated Park Hall reopened at the start of the spring semester, unveiling high-tech flexible classrooms, a webinar room, fully renovated transportation lab and much more. The school’s new south-facing main entrance—an atrium with three levels of walkways—also opened, connecting to the school’s adjacent Wilber Hall and, through it, the Shineman Center. Financed through the SUNY Construction Fund, the project blossomed from a Bergmann Associates design and the school’s collaborative planning effort.

“The changes are absolutely amazing when I think about all the possibilities,” said Pam Michel, interim dean of education.

Center for Urban Schools

Park Hall eventually will house all six departments of Oswego’s School of Education: technology, vocational teacher preparation, educational administration, health promotion and wellness, curriculum and instruction, and counseling and psychological services. The School of Education puts a high premium on social justice and improving opportunities in the state’s high-need schools, so the college’s Center for Urban Schools also has a prominent new location.

“We have moved the Center for Urban Schools to the third floor of Park Hall, the same floor as the dean’s suite, and I’m really excited about that,” Michel said. “It’s going to be much more visible to faculty, students and staff, and will assist our recruiting and supporting a diverse faculty and student body and our seeking funds to support partnerships across the state.”

Michel said she has already seen new synergies with the sciences as a result of the highly visible new 13,700-square-foot Wilber Hall addition with its state-of-the-art technology labs and the school’s field placement office.

The STEM for Kids program, Youth Technology Days and last fall’s Nor’easter VEX Robotics Competition are all examples, she said. “Alumni and the public school teachers are very excited to see the significant improvements, not only in the labs but in the curriculum,” Michel said.

Joe Messmer of Facilities Design and Construction, the college’s liaison with general contractor PAC & Associates of Oswego on the project, said the list of what’s new in Park Hall is extensive, from the lower level’s all-new mechanicals and a modernized transportation lab to a fully renovated auditorium for SUNY Oswego’s Faculty Assembly meetings and other events.

Historic building

In a project that sometimes resembled an archeological dig, PAC and its subcontractors transformed the building to a brighter, more open, more flexible and high-tech home for the next generations of teachers and those who teach them. “We found a fireplace inside a wall on the second floor that still had wood stacked in it,” Messmer said during a tour.

Joseph Park, a 1902 alumnus of the college, devoted countless hours to helping design and equip what was then a state-of-the-art home for Oswego’s renowned industrial arts programs.

Now Park Hall—renovated to LEED Gold standards—features new foam insulation, heating, air handling, electrical, sprinklers and alarms, Messmer said. New metered steam lines feed the heating system. Much of the building’s brickwork remains, but new brick matches it, and there are new touches throughout, such as the atrium’s terrazzo floors and recycled redwood feature wall.

As Michel looked out over the atrium from the third-floor walkway, it brought to mind another set of collaborations she would like to see, with the arts. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful in this atrium if there were a string quartet or a small performance to bring to the School of Education?” she said.

PHOTO CAPTION: Makeover magic—Among the many new features of a $17.5 million renovation of SUNY Oswego School of Education’s Park Hall, the lecture hall/auditorium dons new seating, lights, carpeting, high-tech audiovisual equipment and window units, among other upgrades. Technology education students Erica Querns, left, a graduate student, and Omar Santiago, a senior, give the room’s theatre-style seats a try. The rejuvenated hall, the college’s second-oldest building, reopened with the start of classes for the spring semester.

(Posted: Feb 03, 2014)

Tags: school of education, park hall