Since the construction of New College House West started in December 2018, students have lost access to the high rise field, one of the last remaining green spaces on campus.
While University architects say they are optimistic about preserving green space on campus and improving the quality of open space available to the Penn community, students continue to say they are alarmed by the diminishing green space on campus.
University Architect Mark Kocent said through the process of developing plans for NCHW and even the construction of New College House on Chestnut Street, his office has been “very aware of creating additional green spaces on campus." He added that residents of NCHW will have access to an interior courtyard, similar to the one in NCH.
University Landscape Architect Bob Lundgren also said the anticipated amount of open green space on the site will be roughly one-half or two-thirds of the space that existed before. A turf-material field will also be installed in the area to replace the high rise field. Lundgren said he believes this will be an "improvement" from the previous grass field, because the field was difficult to maintain.
College senior Daniel Kranseler told The Daily Pennsylvanian in November 2017 that the construction of NCHW was "frustrating." Now nearly a year later, Kranseler said although students wouldn't have been frequently using the green space to play sports in the winter, he is still upset about the loss of the field.
While Kranseler has seen the public renderings released by the University detailing the makeup of the new dorm, he is unconvinced that students will be satisfied with the anticipated amount of green space. Kranseler said he understands Penn's intentions, but “the issue is that it kind of hurts the campus experience."
“It doesn’t stop me from being a little bit sad about it,” Kranseler added.
College and Wharton junior Jennifer Chen said while she does not have a strong opinion about the building of the new dorm, the inconveniences to students and the sight of construction walking past the area has "really negatively impacted [her] mood," as Penn has replaced a positive green space with the noises and grayness of a construction site.
The high rise field has long been considered as a potential spot for new housing, Kocent said, adding that the University has been contemplating this location even before Penn President Amy Gutmann began her tenure in 2004.
In September 2018, Penn announced it would require all undergraduate sophomore students to live on campus in college houses starting with the Class of 2024 students, who will arrive on campus in 2020. NCHW is planned to open in fall 2021 and will be a three-year, 450-bed residence for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Kocent also said Penn has been actively involved with the Spruce Hill Community Association and the Free Library of Philadelphia while designing NCHW to ensure that the West Philadelphia community will still be able to benefit from the new green space.