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Construction transforming University as first major projects reach completion
August 31, 1998

Signs of the physical transformation of the University are everywhere, as faculty, staff and students return from summer break.

At the Storrs campus, officials and construction workers are ready to take the covers off several of the first major construction projects authorized under the UConn 2000 building program, including a new academic building and a set of residence halls that will house nearly 700 students.

The new chemistry building and new residence halls will be joined within about three months by a pedestrian mall that will wind through center campus from Hillside to Babbidge Road. Also ready for the 1998-99 academic year will be a new shuttle bus loop through center campus, connecting Mansfield and Glenbrook roads, which will dramatically increase student, faculty and staff access to key University facilities.

"These are heady days for the University of Connecticut," says President Philip E. Austin. "The promise of the past three years is becoming reality, as our physical transformation keeps pace with our academic transformation. These first new buildings mark the start of a dramatic decade for our community, our students, and the students yet to arrive."

The new South Campus dormitories were expected to be ready for occupancy by the time upperclassmen returned yesterday and today, according to Larry Schilling, UConn architect. And workers will be putting the finishing touches on the new 199,000-square-foot chemistry building by early October.

The new chemistry building will replace the outdated Waring Chemistry Building. It will offer state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratory space, a resource and learning center, and faculty and administrative offices. Faculty, staff and students will move equipment and lab supplies into the new structure during the next few months, teach several lab courses, and feature the building nationally during several conferences scheduled for spaces already completed, says Arthur Dimock, head of the chemistry department.

Another major building about to be completed, although not a UConn 2000 project, is the Homer Babbidge Library, which will be rededicated during an October 18 celebration, after renovations to both interior and exterior. The project will give students and faculty access to one of the most technologically advanced libraries in the country.

Just in front of Babbidge, the University's move toward becoming a more pedestrian-oriented campus, a key feature of the facilities master plan, will become more clear by the time of the rededication. The Academic Way, a pair of walkways intersecting in front of the library and lined with benches and trees, is intended to bring students and faculty closer together by creating a more interactive campus core. The main plaza of the core, directly in front of Babbidge, is expected to be completed before the October gala. The entire east-west pedestrian path, complete with seating, lights and trees, is expected to be completed by December. The intersecting walkway, running from South Campus to the new biotechnology building near the Edward V. Gant Science Complex, will be built at a later date.

Another project connected to the pedestrian campus, a new road passing by the back of Gulley Hall, is only for shuttle buses and deliveries and will shorten the trip times for buses that are currently required to wend their way through traffic and traffic lights on Route 195. Buses are expected to begin using the new road by the start of classes September 2, while related work - new sidewalks, plantings, and other enhancements - should be completed in October.

Meanwhile, work on other significant projects is proceeding. Steel beams already are framing the outline of major additions to the University's fine arts complex and the new physics/biology building, adjacent to the Gant complex. Work also is expected to begin this year on a new center for animal vaccine research, a collaboration between UConn and Pfizer, and a new agricultural biotechnology building. Both buildings will be constructed on the hillside above UConn's current agricultural buildings. In addition, bids will be let in December for the School of Business Administration's new quarters.

The more than $13 million addition to and renovation of the University's fine arts complex, which is expected to be complete by October 1999, includes a new music library building, a three-story, circular structure that will seat nearly 100 students, nearly half in individual or group listening areas. The new building -- with more than 16,000 LPs in storage and another 16,000 on the shelves -- will allow school officials to greatly expand the collections, which already number thousands of musical scores, CDs, audio and video cassettes, and journals. The complex will also include a new band/orchestra wing, which will connect to the music library building and to the existing drama wing of the complex.

A $43 million building -- attached to the Gant complex -- that will be the tallest structure on campus once completed in several years, will house biological sciences and physics. It will feature facilities for electron microscopy, biotechnological research and lab space, and a 22,000-square-foot addition for the physics department that will house an accelerator and be used for laser technology research.

At the Avery Point campus, improvements to the infrastructure are progressing and work has begun on the new Marine Sciences Institute. And at the Health Center in Farmington, a new academic research building is close to completion, with ribbon-cutting ceremonies scheduled for the end of October. Researchers expect to begin using the laboratories next semester.

The new Connecticut Ice Arena is moving forward, with completion expected in time for the Huskies' 1998-99 hockey season. The new, enclosed skating arena will include a 200-by-85-foot skating rink, as many as 1,700 seats, two varsity home team locker rooms, four visiting team and youth league locker rooms, an official locker area, as well as offices for coaches, a warming area, hospitality room, and concession area. It replaces a decades-old, open-air rink.

Richard Veilleux