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Renovations to Annenberg Plaza are scheduled to be completed in November, and will include new landscaping and improved handicap access to the building. [Julia Zhou/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Although renovations on Annenberg Plaza were made less than five years ago, the facility is now in the midst of a makeover.

The $3 million project is slated for completion by early November and will renovate the 20,000 square foot area with new landscaping, lighting and seating.

The new plaza will provide improved handicap access to the Annenberg building.

The renovations, which began over the summer, "will animate the public plaza tremendously," Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Services Omar Blaik said, noting that the project's cost will largely be supported by a gift from the Annenberg Foundation.

Already mostly completed, four Annenberg classrooms situated below the outdoor plaza were also outfitted with improved technology features as part of the construction project.

Architecturally complicating the construction, the classrooms located underground beneath the plaza have made this project more lengthy than a typical landscaping renovation.

"We didn't want to install the new enhancements on the same membrane," Blaik said, noting that the former waterproofing membrane between the plaza and the classrooms below had been installed approximately 20 years ago.

Annenberg officials are looking at the project positively.

"It's not just for the benefit of the Annenberg School," Annenberg Dean Michael Delli Carpini said. "It will add to the sense of common space."

However, some students are calling the renovations to Annenberg Plaza unnecessary.

"It's clearly a sign that Annenberg has too much money," said Kyle Farley, a History Department doctoral candidate who works in the Penn Humanities Forum and McNeil Center for Early American Studies building directly behind the plaza. "Do you know what they could have done to DuBois College House with $3 million?"

Also saying that he thought the project might be "excessive," College junior Marvin Rocha questioned the priority placed on the renovation.

"I thought [the plaza] was just fine before," Rocha said. "It wasn't gorgeous, but it was fine."

Construction work has temporarily blocked access to the Annenberg building from Locust Walk, creating an "uncomfortable" inconvenience, according to Rocha.

Others, however, are accustomed to the building's Walnut Street entrance and have not been impacted by the project.

"I didn't even know they were doing it," College junior Anami Karim said.

Students did note that the project has its perks.

"It's interesting to watch [the construction] coming along, and I get to bond with pigeons," Farley said from the McNeil fire escape overlooking the plaza.

With the addition of more trees and greenery, the plaza will become a model for future renovations around campus, according to Facilities officials.

"There are several things we want to emulate with other plazas," Blaik said, calling the plaza next to the School of Social Work building -- a possible upcoming project -- currently "extremely harsh in the winter and summer."

While the renovated Annenberg Plaza will still be paved in granite, two stone walls have been removed to allow for more landscaping in the area.

"Those two walls were designed to provide some sort of a buffer between the fraternities and the school, but they prevented trees and greenery from being part of the plaza," Blaik said, adding that following the renovations the plaza will have "quite a bit of trellises and trees and light."

Noting that as a newcomer to the University he did not see the plaza in its former state, Delli Carpini added, "While it wasn't terrible... it wasn't a very inviting space."

Given the late phase of construction, other reactions to the project were fairly ambivalent.

"It's fine if that's what they want to spend money on," College sophomore Shaunya James said. "It doesn't matter to me."

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