There are only 68 working days between Commencement and Move-in, and Penn uses each and every one of them for construction projects big and small. Summer construction starts the day after graduation. In fact, says University Architect Mark Kocent, trucks with scaffolding are often packed and ready to unload the morning after Commencement.
The Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES) uses the summertime to do a host of façade upgrades and exterior repairs. This summer, FRES is overseeing façade projects at the Palestra, the Anatomy-Chemistry Building of the Perelman School of Medicine, the Furness Building, the Penn Museum, Weightman Hall, Cohen Hall, the Hollenback Center, the Evans Building, the John Morgan Building, the Towne Building, the Pottruck Center, Stellar-Chance Laboratories, the Schattner Center, Huntsman Hall, Hill Pavilion, Silverman Hall and Tanenbaum Hall at Penn Law School, the Goddard Laboratories, the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter, Fox-Fels Hall, and 3401 Walnut St.
Additionally, Penn Commons in the Perelman Quad is being repaved, and the parking lot at Hill College House will be converted into a small park.
Concurrently, larger, multi-year PennConnects 2.0 and 3.0 construction projects are breaking ground, building up, or nearing completion.
The Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics is finished and has already welcomed occupants.
“It was substantially complete in mid-April, and since then we’ve been moving furniture and people into the building this summer,” says Mike Dausch, executive director of design and construction at FRES. “It will be fully occupied and ready to go for classes in August.”
Located at 36th and Sansom streets, the building contains classrooms, a 123-seat auditorium, a 72-seat forum, conference rooms, study spaces, and offices.
Construction workers have started a steam line project for the 450-bed New College House West in order to bring utilities to the future 40th-Street college house. The “Plateau” public art installation that rested between the Walnut Street West Library and Locust Walk will relocate to the south side of Locust Walk.
Design for the College House is currently in its final stages, and major construction will commence in December. The 40th Street Field is available this summer and fall for community and student use. The building is scheduled to open in 2021.
Work on the four-story Wharton Academic Research Building began right after Commencement. Paving from Woodland Walk is being removed and replaced, and paving has been temporarily removed on 37th Street between Locust and Spruce streets in order to install a new chilled waterline underneath 37th Street Walk.
“The building construction is also underway,” Dausch says. “We have a large number of caissons—the base foundation of the building—already installed, and we’re continuing to work on that over the next couple of weeks, and then they’ll be installing the grade beams and working their way up with the structure of the building.” The project runs through 2020.
Renovations to the School of Dental Medicine’s Evans Main Clinic were completed at the end of December, and the building has been in use for six months. Additions to the Schattner Building were substantially completed in June.
“The Schattner addition is strategically located to connect the various Dental School buildings—serving as a critical link between the academic, clinical and the research arms of the school,” says Kocent. “The new addition also provides important dental student gathering space on the first floor and a waiting area for the main clinic on the second floor.”
The first phase of a three-phase project is proceeding at the Penn Museum. The biggest improvement in the first phase is the addition of air conditioning to Harrison Auditorium.
“All the seats have been removed and are being reupholstered,” says Dausch. The first phase will also improve the accessibility in the building, including a new elevator and stairways and new restrooms.”
Behind the Museum, hard hats and cranes are busy at work erecting steel on the Penn Medicine Pavilion, and a parking garage and new loading dock is being constructed on the lower levels of the east side. The $1.5 billion structure is scheduled to open in 2021.
At the end of July, construction will begin on the Ringe Squash Center, which will be renamed the Martin and Julie Franklin Squash Courts once the project is finalized. Renovations will increase the number of international courts from 10 to 12, improve spectator seating/viewing areas, and upgrade facilities such as team rooms, coaches’ offices, and restrooms, among other improvements. Work is scheduled to last one year. Penn’s squash teams will play their home games at Drexel this season while construction is ongoing.
On a super tight schedule are the renovations to the lower level of Houston Hall, which is being modernized with new food options. Construction started right after graduation, and will be completed before students return in August.
“We essentially gutted the space, including digging up a lot of the floor for new plumbing connections,” Dausch says. “Part of the schedule challenge for this one is that we have to have it inspected by the health department as well, so it’s not just finishing construction, it has to be finished early enough so that we can bring in a third-party inspection firm before we have the health department go through. We generally grade ourselves even tougher than the health department to make sure that we pass the health department inspections.”
Dausch says the renovations to Penn Medicine’s Stemmler Building have probably been the most complicated. The building is undergoing renovations to wet labs, offices, and vivarium, construction of a new freezer farm, and mechanical and electrical infrastructure and replacement.
“It’s very, very difficult,” he says. “Renovating a partially occupied lab building, replacing all of the infrastructure while still trying to keep the building functional as a lab building.”
Homepage photo: Penn utilizes the 68 working days between Commencement and Move-in for construction projects big and small.