St. John’s recently began a complete overhaul of its Queens’ campus, with numerous renovations taking place and new additions to the campus currently being planned.
The renovations already started with Newman Hall, where pipes are being replaced because of frequent leaks and aging. “Since Newman Hall has the central IT hub, it’s high-risk,” said Brij Anand, the Vice President of Facilities.
Newman Hall’s renovations should be completed between now and August. Until then, faculty has temporarily been placed in St. Augustine Hall, Council Hall, or Carnesecca Arena.
The biggest of the renovation projects is the Academic Grove, which will be built between Sullivan Hall and Taffner Field House, near the lacrosse field. This building will house a new student union, as well as classrooms. The design of the Academic Grove is currently in progress, and construction should begin in February 2008, and be finished sometime in 2009.
“The new university and academic center will be essentially for student activity and will provide a much larger space than the current University Center,” Anand explained.
“There has been a pending need for a larger university center and a higher student-faculty interaction,” he noted. “That became the drive to put up the academic center.” He added, “One wing will have state-of-the-art classrooms fully equipped with technology and there will be different sized classrooms to accommodate class sizes.”
In addition to the new student center, townhouses are currently being built to accommodate a growing need for student housing. St. Vincent’s Hall will also be converted to student housing by August 2008, making residence space for 200 students.
“Student housing has been in high demand, and we are trying to meet the shortfall,” said Anand. “We will also be increasing housing on the Manhattan campus to overcome the demand,” he said. Other buildings on the Queens campus that are being renovated are St. Albert Hall and Sun Yat Sen Hall.
The Science Master Plan, which is currently undergoing its third and fourth phases in St. Albert Hall, will enable it to “provide impoved labs and research facilities,” while “Sun Yat Sen Hall will house the Asian Collection and become the center for Asian Studies,” according to Anand. Air conditioning will also be added to all of the classrooms in Marillac and Sullivan, to “make sure that as we start the next semester, we have a good learning environment,” said Anand.
St. John’s will be increasing the amount of available parking spaces, as well. As Anand explained, rooftop parking will be added on top of the existing garage on Union Turnpike, which will provide 275 additional parking spots.
With the University spending upwards of $145 million on these planned renovations, the question may arise whether this money is being well spent.
“They [the renovations] certainly would help attract and retain more students because of the availability of housing and a larger student center,” Anand said.
Students, however, were torn over whether these renovations would benefit St. John’s.
“I don’t really make use of UC, so I don’t have any particular attrachment to it or desire for something better,” said sophomore Peter Gyuratz. “I doubt I’ll make use of the new facility either way.”
Sophomore Sean McGrath, on the other hand, believes that “it’s a good idea, especially the dorms.” He explained, “I think that the school should be trying to eventually be able to provide housing to any student that wants it.”