The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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In an effort to update University facilities badly in need of repair, several buildings on the Queens campus are undergoing a series of renovations which began this summer.

Facility repairs have been occurring throughout the University Center, St. Augustine Hall and the Little Theater, along with most other buildings on campus.

The improvements are part of the St. John’s Strategic Plan, approved by the Board of Trustees in April 2005, which outlined 14 “institutional goals” to meet the University’s strategic priorities for academic and infrastructure development.

The facility repairs were announced in Dec. 2005 and began in earnest following the completion of the 2005-06 academic year.

“Space, at any university, is one of the most valuable resources,” said James Pellow, executive vice president and COO for St. John’s.

“There is never enough of it, it’s never in good enough shape. Students don’t feel classrooms and resident halls are good enough. Meeting spaces aren’t good enough, faculty don’t like their office. No one is ever happy.”

Such sentiments spurred the recent wave of campus renovations. In addition, St. John’s has been in Queens since the 1950’s and is badly in need of improvements, including
increased academic space and renovations to the existing space.

Athletic space was added to the University last fall with the construction of the Taffner Fieldhouse and the renovations to the fitness center. Following those improvements, the board approved three major projects and a series of minor projects this summer.

The first of the major projects is the construction of a new University Center.

“We think we’ll spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million building a first class student center,” Pellow said. “We think it will be housed on the footprint of the stadium built into the hill overlooking the field and looking back towards Sun Yat Sen.”

The area around Sun Yat Sen, where the trailers were formerly located, is expected to become a sort of second Great Lawn, Pellow said.

It will take shape in the next two to three years. The idea is to link the Residence Village, with the help of the new U.C., to the main part of the campus.

The second major project involves increasing the amount of student housing available.

“We have anywhere between 400 to 800 students that would like to have beds that we just don’t have beds for,” Pellow said. “It’s an unfortunate problem if you’re a student looking for a bed; it’s a good problem if you’re an institution that’s just
invested 600 million dollars over the last 10 years because that means you’re doing something right.”

According to Pellow, the board has approved the building of a series of town houses that will run along from St. Thomas More Church to Gate 7 and then around to Gate 1.

“There are infinite numbers of groups that might want to come together and live together and now we’ll have this nice housing
for them,” Pellow said. “You’ve got kind of a courtyard scenario in the way the townhouses will be set up. They’ll be three stories each and you’ll have three units around each courtyard and a wall along the perimeter of the site.”

“The courtyards are just a natural living/learning community type of environment,” said James Perrino, the senior vice president for administration.

The third major improvement is in the academic arena. In addition to offices, classrooms and conference rooms, additions could include a TV center, a trade room, a
new fine arts design studio or a new language

“What we have right now is the approval to build an academic building, and the provost and the deans are trying to determine
what program will go into that building,” Pellow said. “That’s to be determined and the location of that is to be determined. We
have a couple of ideas for that.”

One of the main goals of the Strategic Plan is to create a more fluid campus. The academic center of the University will be
located around the Great Lawn. All classroom space that has been converted to office space will be returned to the academic realm.

The Great Lawn will serve as the academic epicenter of the University, while all administrative offices and student organizations will be moved to the peripheral.

“You’re going to find that this Great Lawn is going to be nothing but students, faculty, and academic learning,” Pellow

Other plans for the University include renovations to the law school to provide a more professional work space for the students; the creation of a state-of-the-art writing center on the ground floor of St. Augustine Hall; updates to the Little Theater, giving it 450 seats and a more modern look; and a restructuring of the science labs, part of a $20 million science master plan, will help modernize the science classrooms and research laboratories.

“At the end of the day, what’s in the market is that students are really seeking a St. John’s experience,” Perrino said. “To grow
to the point where we have 25,000 applicants and the academic profile of our students has increased dramatically over the last several years, you recognize that the folks that are coming into the institution deserve to have these types of facilities and this type of learning environment so that they ultimately will get the most out of their tuition dollars.”

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