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St. Lawrence University breaks ground on residence hall

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CANTON — Fencing around a construction site at St. Lawrence University has raised a few eyebrows about the campus Quad’s future.

An estimated $12 million, 150-bed student housing unit approved in October has broken ground, requiring the installation of a 6-foot, chain-link construction fence around the site.

The university is funding the project with its capital fund and donations to avoid taking on additional debt. To date, $4.3 million has been raised.

Taking up half of the Quad, the gated area will return to its former grassy glory, but not until the project’s expected completion in July or August 2014.

The future residence hall’s footprint is the road and parking lot in front of the E.J. Noble Center on the Quad’s east side.

University Vice President for Communications Thomas Evelyn said the Quad’s restricted portion is undergoing the installation of geothermal wells that will be used in the residence hall.

“The geothermal wells will actually go underground,” Mr. Evelyn said. “Once that is complete, you won’t even see it. Grass will go back over it and you won’t know it’s there.”

The well, Mr. Evelyn said, will heat and cool the new building.

Because the building will be four stories high at its tallest point, the school will minimize the structure’s footprint.

“That is also part of our commitment to sustainability, wanting to protect the Quad as a special space and not encroaching onto the grassy area,” Mr. Evelyn said.

In fact, in a December update, university President William L. Fox said the project could add as much as 6 percent more green space, including enhanced landscaping at the site.

While the activity at the Quad has diminished from when the Noble Center was the student center, by no means has the quad become a “dead part of campus,” Mr. Evelyn said.

“Certainly placing a residence hall right there will help to generate a lot more activity on this side of campus,” he said.

Additionally, the space between the new residence hall and the Noble Center is a potential location for an arts walk where students’ sculptures could be displayed.

“It will be landscaped so that emergency vehicles could still come through if needed, but otherwise it would be closed off to all other traffic,” he said.

Sophomore Courtney McKnight was sitting on the remaining portion of the Quad looking at the construction activity.

She said the university needs to realize it is a small school and cease expanding.

“St. Lawrence should accept that they’re a small school in a small town and that they have expanded as far as they can,” Miss McKnight said. “Are they going to extend the dining facilities? I know this new building is going to have a cafe, but a cafe is not going to house hundreds for dinner and breakfast.”

Miss McKnight said if the campus is tight on space, she wondered why the new residence hall needs to be so “luxurious,” with the addition of a glass-bridge commons connecting the two sections of the building.

“I feel like they are just ready to brag about some really nice building, but the other dorms are falling apart,” she said,

Aaron Schlossberg, a freshman, and Tom Barry, a senior, play on a frisbee team that practices at the quad four days a week.

“Usually we have a game going and it takes up half the quad to play,” Mr. Schlossberg said, “so it is kind of tough to have a fence in our way. It’s good that they are starting it this late so that we don’t get kicked off the Quad that much. We got the space and it’s nice that they left us some of it.”

Mr. Barry, the team’s captain, showed less kindness in his comments when reacting to the change.

“A lot of people are pretty frustrated,” he said. “We know that the university has to expand. I hope the university gets what they need out of it.”

At the same time, Mr. Barry said the quad is a major reason why he loves the campus layout.

“It won’t really affect us that much,” he said. “We still have enough field space for a regular field, but obviously it is an aesthetic tragedy.”

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