First in a series: East campus construction projects gear up

Eight years of brainstorming and innovating, strategizing and negotiating have come to this: Faculty and staff are packing up in Piez Hall as the college’s next series of construction projects prepares to launch in earnest.

Artistic renderings of East Campus renovations.The shorthand for this $110 million to $120 million phase of SUNY Oswego’s evolution is “the sciences complex.” But it is just part of the logistical web campus planners have spun for all the work on the eastern end of campus.

* The 20 full-time and 30 part-time faculty, three secretaries and two support technicians with offices in 48-year-old Piez Hall will move to Hewitt Union and Snygg Hall—both undergoing reconfigurations now.

* Classrooms and teaching labs for earth sciences are rising now in Hewitt Union as well.

* The campus phone system will move to VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) to replace the traditional brain of the system, housed in Snygg. CTS and Facilities will do the technical work and pull the fiber optic cable, respectively.

* Construction of new space for the sciences, tied physically and conceptually to both Piez and Wilber halls, will begin.

* Eventual salvage and demolition of the current Snygg Hall will take place, integrating new construction into the overall complex with “vibrant programs, building identity and collegial spirit,” Simmonds said.

* Extensive upgrades of Park and Wilber halls for the School of Education will follow the sciences buildout.

* An exterior upgrade for Sheldon Hall, along with road closures, temporary and permanent parking configurations, new walkways, truck traffic, construction crews and lots more, mean the next four years will involve changes in routine for many faculty, staff and students.

“In order to do all that, our campus has been fantastic in working together and with all the people who need to move,” said Tom Simmonds, associate vice president for facilities and co-chair of the Campus Concept Committee.

Intensive planning

Susan Camp, the committee’s other co-chair, echoed that. It’s an opportunity, she said, to help expedite this project—doing all this work as an integrated whole will shave two years off projected completion—and for some spring cleaning.

“This major project —sciences and education—is another example of SUNY Oswego’s strength in conceptualizing and then planning what it takes to be a frontrunner in higher education,” Camp said.  “We have capitalized on the five-year capital planning that was afforded us through New York state and are respected in SUNY for our planning and what we have accomplished.”

The Campus Concept Committee approved formation of a sciences planning committee in April 2002. Casey Raymond, assistant professor of chemistry, is chair.

“I believe the long planning process led to a pretty easy cooperation and collaboration,” Raymond said. “We’re not quite finished with planning the schedule of moves for everyone, but we’re just about there.”

Raymond worked with Simmonds, Associate Provost Rameen Mohammadi, Chief Technology Officer Joe Moreau, Ken Hyde, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and all the chairs and science faculty to negotiate space needs and strategize the moves.

What’s going where

The College Bookstore will shift from the basement to the first floor of Hewitt Union, on either side of the main entrance. Dave Buske, textbook manager, said one side will host textbook sales, the other for computer and art supplies.  “This is an exciting flexible open-floor-plan use for this space that will bring these services on Main Street and creates quality space for whatever future function Hewitt may bring,” Simmonds said.

Earth sciences faculty and staff have received their boxes and bubble wrap for the move to Hewitt, which will occur in waves after commencement and through the summer. Most offices and labs will move to the second floor.

Biology faculty and staff will move to spaces throughout Snygg. Raymond said faculty and other personnel in Snygg—physics, computer science, chemistry and CTS—consolidated, gave up and otherwise freed space for biology. “No, it wasn’t easy, but everyone understood and was willing to make compromises and feel a little bit of pain,” Raymond said. In addition, the Environmental Research Center will move to the lower level of Snygg Hall.

The sciences complex and related projects have meant scores of meetings, including a recent briefing for the Student Association. There are more to come: meetings with city and town officials, an upcoming community forum—tentatively scheduled for April 28—with residents of the Ontario Heights neighborhood adjacent to campus, and others.

Simmonds and Camp said there will be much more information to share campus-wide in the coming weeks and months. Look for reports this semester in each remaining issue of Campus Update about what to expect this summer: vehicular and pedestrian traffic patterns, parking lot changes, fencing and safety, construction work and other ways the series of projects will affect everyday life this summer and for at least three years to come.

(Posted: Mar 29, 2010)