Boston University students returning to campus this fall found that they no longer needed to dodge orange cones, search for detours to class or use the morning jackhammer as an alarm, because the Commonwealth Avenue Improvement Project was complete.
Though Commonwealth Avenue has now remained relatively jackhammer-free, President Robert Brown’s hiring and construction freeze does not mean on-campus construction has completely halted, BU officials said. Planning, maintenance and previously approved projects will continue. The only consequence of the freeze is a longer planning period for major initiatives until they receive executive approval.
Despite current economic conditions, BU is determined to complete projects already in motion, like the Student Village Phase II, the College of Fine Arts renovation project and other routine maintenance projects on campus.
‘Obviously now with the economic situation we’re dialing back,’ BU Operations Vice President Gary Nicksa said. ‘President [Robert Brown] has been very clear: We have not stopped our planning . . . so that when the funding is ready, we will be ready to start that work.’
The construction freeze also mandated that every already-approved project be taken back through senior executive levels for re-approval, Nicksa said.
CAP, which started in fall 2006, ended in time for the start of the 2008-09 school year. BU collaborated with the Massachusetts Highway Department to complete the project efficiently, Nicksa said.
‘The project was done on time, on budget and came out looking as good as everyone hoped it would,’ Nicksa said. ‘It looks spectacular.’
CFA junior Miles Martin said he was impressed by the changes in appearance when he returned for the new school year.
‘When I came back on the move-in weekend, I said to myself, ‘Good job, finally,” Martin said. ‘It definitely took a while, but having actual places to walk is worth it.’
CAS senior Nadine Aziz said she thinks the money could have been better spent on other parts of campus and was frustrated that her financial aid did not increase with the increase in tuition.
‘The project definitely gave BU a facelift,’ Aziz said. ‘But maybe that money would have been better spent renovating old houses and updating infrastructures. Buildings all over campus – especially South Campus – are degenerated and are in grave need of some refurbishing.’
Commonwealth Avenue was not the only street on campus constantly under construction last year. Bay State Road, which contains BU residences and school departments, also saw its fair share of construction. The only major project that took place on Bay State this semester, aside from pipe and drain maintenance, was 159 Bay State Road’s ‘extreme make-over,’ Nicksa said.
BU Facilities Management and Planning replaced the lighting fixtures in the brownstone to make them more ‘energy efficient,’ and removed old built-in furniture to put in new moveable furniture, Nicksa said.
Nicksa said they are taking advantage of the various renovations on campus, which are still allowed during the freeze, as opportunities to install more energy efficient and cost effective fixtures. Currently, BU Facilities Management is replacing all lighting fixtures in Mugar Memorial Library, which will save an estimated 1.5 million kilowatt hours per year.
‘That’s socially and environmentally the best thing to do,’ Nicksa said. ‘Financially, that’s also the best thing to do. We look for any cost because that directly reduces tuition. The trick is you want to reduce the rate of growth, because that translates directly into the cost of education.’
CFA is also continuing its renovation project, which, according to Brown’s Strategic Plan, has been part of his goal since winter 2005. This year, 100 music practice rooms will be installed, Nicksa said.
BU spokesman Colin Riley said many BU schools are planning renovation projects similar to CFA’s makeover. Since these are necessary renovations, they will take place during the freeze.
CFA’s ‘state-of-the-art’ music practice rooms will accommodate all sizes of groups from singles to quartets, Nicksa said.
‘The college has spent several years studying and seeing what other colleges have,’ Nicksa said. ‘We’re very excited about that one. It’s going to be a tremendous facility for them.’
BU Facilities Management is currently working with the College of Communication as it continues to evolve and adapt to the new technological era. It is trying to find space for a high definition media lab within the building, Nicksa said.