Long-term construction project completed as FSU welcomes new facilities director

(The granite Framingham State seal was completed this summer. Photo by Amanda Martin.)

New walkways and retaining walls were built over the summer – the final elements of FSU’s $80 million construction project to update the science facilities.

Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said, “We were fortunate to be able to bring that project in within budget and do the scope of the project as originally designed.”

Students returning from summer break found a brick walkway connecting a common route to and from the library.

Student Jovan Jjuuko said, “It’s convenient. Before, your shoes would get muddy if it was raining out.”

Olivia Pettengill, a sophomore, said, “I like the path. It’s much better than that mud pit that was here before.”

Theresa Jean-Francois, a junior, said, “I used to walk through here anyway so this makes a lot more sense.”

New slatted benches line the path. Similarly styled benches were also installed behind May Hall to replace the non-functioning spotlights that had become “cigarette butt depositories,” according to Hamel.

He added the benches’ “funky” design came from the project’s architect, Ellenzweig.

The 8-year project is highly visible on the Boston-based architecture firm Ellenzweig’s website.  The company received an award from the Boston Society of Architects/Massachusetts Architectural Access Board for “the significant improvements to the existing buildings and surrounding landscape that have resulted in full, universal access.”

Kate Downing, a sophomore, said, “It looks great! The benches make it look really modern.”

Another new fixture outside the library is the University seal inlaid in granite on the brick walkway.

Emily Petra, senior, said, “It was one of the first things I noticed when I came back to campus. I guess they’re putting our money to good use.”

Hamel said the aim was to keep to the style of the rest of campus. “We’re after that new England look and feel, with the brick walkways and seals.”

Kelly Taylor, sophomore, said, “The new stuff is more modern, but it ties everything together.”

Patricia Whitney, new facilities director, said “I think those things are really important, because as people are walking around this campus, they want to feel good every day. They want to feel at home.  One of the things that attracted me to the University was the appearance of the campus when you first arrive.”

She added, “Everything is done with students in mind.”

Whitney, a civil engineer, has worked in facilities since 1993 and started at FSU this August. She will be working alongside her predecessor, Warren Fairbanks, who remains with the University part-time to support ongoing and upcoming projects.

“There are a number of projects on the docket for next year,” she said.  Fairbanks will assist with small installations of boilers and chillers, as well as with the next large construction project that will be visible on campus – filling the conduit tunnel connecting May Hall and the campus power plant. The tunnel protects wires and pipes  that connect to buildings in the center of the campus.

“Tunnels are the old way of doing things and they’re a lot of maintenance and a lot of work,” she said.

According to Hamel, students should expect to see digging next summer leading from behind May to the power plant.

“[The other tunnels] will stay until they, too, probably get to a condition where we’ll have to do something,” he added.

A 2015 Gatepost article reported the tunnel between the powerplant and May Hall, built in 1961, is the newest in a network connecting Dwight, May, Horace Mann, Peirce, Crocker and Hemenway halls. These tunnels were built around the early 1900s.    

Another project students may see soon is the painting of the exterior of the Welcome Center, said Whitney.

“I love working at the higher-education level. I love the collaboration that comes with it,” said Whitney, who add that at previous universities, she has worked with students from different departments on facilities projects.

Lorretta Holloway, vice president of enrollment and student development, said, “The Memorial Grove, which opened in 2015, finally received a sign this fall.”

She added that this will be the last foreseeable addition to the Memorial Grove area, aside from ongoing efforts to commemorate members of the FSU community who have passed with bricks of remembrance.  The Alumni Association is managing this project.

“We want it to remain an open place for the campus community to utilize when they want to gather in remembrance and reflection,” said Holloway.

Whitney said she will work to create more inviting spaces like this around campus in the future that “recognize places that are important.”

Laura Brathwaite, a senior, said, “It creates a serene place outside for students.”

Commemorative plaques previously attached to benches that have been replaced are currently being accounted for by Whitney and Maureen Bagge Fowler, environmental health and safety coordinator.

Whitney said, “Other places where I have worked, we’ve maintained a list of plaques that are recognizing donors or recognizing somebody. … Going forward, we’re going to make sure that we know where all of those are and that when we do work, that we’re respectful of where those are. We are sensitive to that going forward.”

Hamel said, “We always keep plaques and essentially move them to the new benches.”

Student Alex Walker said, “I think it would be cool to have [all of the plaques] in one spot instead of scattered around campus.”

Another student, Teresa Stewart, said, “I think we were a little boring before so [The Memorial Grove] and the other stuff in front of the library helps. It actually looks like a fancy campus.”

Looking forward, Whitney plans to focus more on customer service than physical changes to the campus.

“From a physical standpoint, I haven’t walked the campus and said ‘Wow, that’s what I want to do in my first month.’ A lot of what I’m trying to do is get to know people, take things in, see where people’s priorities are.”

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