ARCH centers forced to relocate during construction

Renovations to the historic building are expected to be finished by the end of 2013

· September 6, 2012, 10:18 pm

Moving can be a pain — just ask any of the groups that have called the ARCH building home for years.

In June, the University began renovations on the ARCH building, starting the long process of updating the interior aesthetics and technology while preserving the historic exterior.

Due to the renovations, the three cultural centers that were housed in the ARCH — La Casa Latina, Makuu Black Cultural Center and the Pan-Asian American Community House — have relocated to offices on the second floor of Houston Hall for the time being. The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships has also been moved to an office at 220 South 40th Street, above Ben & Jerry’s.

With the University’s assistance, each of the centers has successfully moved into its new location and is getting ready for the new academic year. According to Provost Vincent Price, the renovations are expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

One of the biggest issues the centers are facing is awareness of the moves. Each will have to make sure that students can easily find their new locations.

In addition to increasing its number of signs around campus, CURF has decided to be a bit creative with outreach efforts. CURF staff will be handing out compasses with their new address on them.

“We figured point it west and go find us,” CURF Director Harriet Joseph said.

Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access William Gipson does not believe the new locations will have an impact on freshmen.

They “won’t have any knowledge of the [old] ARCH location, so like every other location at Penn, they will learn of the temporary location for PAACH by the communications that PAACH and the other centers have sent out in partnership with VPUL Central,” Gipson said in an email.

Even with the challenges that come with relocating, all of the centers are excited about the ARCH renovations. The old building — which received an anonymous $15 million donation in April 2011 for the overhaul — was falling apart and was behind technologically.

“There was a month where we had to choose between electricity or heat,” CURF Assistant Director for Communications Aaron Olson said.

“Chunks of plaster were falling from the ceiling,” he added.

Once the renovations are completed, the facilities will be brought up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards — the building will have a new elevator system — and the technology will be significantly improved. There will be whiteboard technology and built-in Skype functions, among other additions.

There will also be a central air conditioning system in the ARCH, which will allow the building to participate in renewable energy days and focus on energy efficiency and green efforts.

Two of the updates PAACH is most excited for include the building’s additional meeting and gathering areas, as well as a new multi-purpose classroom and auditorium.

While many are looking forward to the new ARCH, some still have their concerns.

College junior Danielle Marryshow, the political co-chair of African-American student group UMOJA, is disappointed that Makuu — along with the other cultural groups — will be located in the basement of the ARCH.

“We’re hoping that our basement location won’t discourage students from coming, in the sense that it’s not as visible,” Marryshow said.

The University has assured the groups that there will be a visible entrance to the basement, as well as prominent signage. Price is hopeful that the ARCH will remain a “jewel on campus” and “become a very vibrant hub for students of all sorts.”

Wharton and College senior Angel Contrera, chair of the Latino Coalition, emphasized the importance of creating a welcoming environment in the new building.

“We want to make sure that when the ARCH reopens that freshmen can call these centers home, just as students like myself have done so for the past couple of years,” he said.

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