By now, Stouffer Triangle was supposed to have been demolished.
New low rise dormitories in Hamilton Village should have been home to hundreds of students.
And the Class of 1920 Commons should have been significantly expanded and renovated, enclosing the courtyard between the dining hall and Harnwell College House.
This was the University's plan for the future of dorms and dining at Penn as outlined with great fanfare in 1998. Three years later, however, very little progress has been made on the $380 million planned overhaul.
"The story is not a very complicated one," Director of College Houses and Academic Services David Brownlee said. "We did not have the resources we hoped to have when those plans were announced."
The original plan, unveiled three years ago, was designed to renovate every dormitory and dining facility on campus, as well as build several new residences in Hamilton Village. The overhaul, which was to begin with Quadrangle renovations in the summer of 1999, was scheduled to be completed within 10 years.
At the time, administrators hailed the proposed changes as the future of the college house system -- a plan to draw students back to campus and create a vibrant community.
But now, while a few parts of the plan have been completed or are nearing completion, many have been delayed indefinitely and others have been scrapped altogether, with officials all pointing to one thing -- the lack of funding for these projects.
The most significant overhaul was to take place in Hamilton Village with the goal of giving the area a more campus-like feel. In addition to building new low rise dorms, plans included bringing new retail -- such as a jazz club -- to the concrete jungle once known as Superblock.
Following these new additions, the plan called for major interior and exterior renovations of the three high rise dorms. The construction would have forced each dorm to close for about a year.
Additionally, the University called for significant renovations to the Class of 1920 Commons Dining Hall.
And officials had said the entire Stouffer Triangle building would be demolished, allowing for the building of a new dining hall in its place.
In the fall of 1999, however, officials announced that the plan would be delayed between one and three years. And a year later, plans for new dorms in Hamilton Village were postponed indefinitely.
Now, with some of these initiatives not even started, officials acknowledge that the lack of money means the plans are on hold.
Brownlee noted that the Health System's financial trouble -- the once-profitable system lost close to $300 million in 1998 and 1999 -- contributed to the delays, but added "I'm not going to say it's one single thing."
There is "a fundamental shortage of University funds for capital projects," he said.
The current status of the plan will be discussed at the December meeting of the University Board of Trustees, according to Executive Vice President John Fry.
"We're looking at adapting the plan to the financial circumstances we have now," he said.
Fry declined to comment on the current specifics of the plan until after the "significant discussions on renovations" that will take place at the December Board of Trustees meeting.
He added that the dorm and dining renovation project is debated by the trustees two or three times a year.
As part of the plan, Hill Dining Hall was renovated for approximately $1 million, largely during the summer of 1999. And Quad renovations are expected to be completed this summer.
But these are the only components that have made significant progress.
The final phases of the renewal project calls for slight renovations to Gregory, W.E.B. DuBois, Hill and Kings Court/English House college houses.
Fry explained that once the renovations to the Quad are complete, the University will tackle the next component of the plan -- the high rises. But he could not provide any more details.
Quad renovations, which have been ongoing during the past three summers, were designed to merge the existing four college houses into three, in addition to increasing common areas in the residences such as computer labs and libraries. Additionally, landscaping work has taken place.
But there's still uncertainty among administrators about what specifically will happen after Quad renovations are complete.
"There's a lot of discussion around the size and scope of dining and housing renewal right now," Vice President of Business Services Lee Nunery said. He added that administrators are "revisiting our previous assumptions."
And some plans have been eliminated altogether.
For example, Stouffer's demolition and 1920 Commons' expansion have now been scrapped.
Officials did close the Stouffer dining facility this summer, but the move came in response to the instability of dining services' finances and lack of student demand for dining. The future of the building, its supposed demolition and the viability of campus dining as a whole remain in flux.
And with money tight these days, Penn now appears reluctant to tear down a usable facility.
"We're trying to think [about] what we can do in the actual building without expanding it," Managing Director of Campus Dining Peg Lacey said, noting that the original plan, which was "pretty pricey," is currently being modified.
Lacey could not say when renovations on the dining hall -- originally scheduled to be completed this year -- will begin.
Despite the delays, Lacey noted that smaller renovations have taken place, such as the creation of PD Express in the basement of 1920 Commons.
"We try to do little things each semester," she said.
And Nunery said that Stouffer is "a building with significant value," noting that the facility will possible be used for additional performance space or retail.
"There's value in the building itself and I don't know that [demolition] would be on the table," he said.
Despite delays and reconfigurations, officials maintain that the renewal project is still one of Penn's priorities.
"We recognize housing and dining renewal... as important to the near term future of the University," Nunery said. "It's how to get it done... the time frame."Comments powered by Disqus
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