Construction on the $4.4 million Weitzman Plaza will begin in May 2020, administrators announced at the Board of Trustees committee meeting on facilities Thursday. Penn also announced that renovations on the ground floor of College Hall to make room for the Penn First Plus office and Stavros Niarchos Foundation Paideia Program will cost $5.4 million and will begin December 2019.
Stuart Weitzman Plaza will be a series of benches and spaces for students to socialize, installed on the steps from Meyerson Hall down to 34th Street. The space between Meyerson Hall and Fisher Fine Arts Library was designated the Weitzman Plaza on Feb. 26.
The Penn First Plus office works on initiatives such as faculty and staff training programs to better understand first-generation, low-income students and scholarship funds, according to its page on the Power of Penn website. The Paideia Program will be based on 12 interdisciplinary core courses that teach students how to become engaged citizens through service.
The plaza project is expected to be completed in October 2020 while the ground floor of College Hall will be finished in June 2020, Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Services Anne Papageorge said.
The funding for the plaza comes from Stuart Weitzman's donation to the School of Design. The school was officially renamed after the 1963 Wharton alumnus earlier this semester.
Gutmann said the plaza will transform the pathway and help better facilitate the flow of pedestrians between the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the College Green side of campus.
“This set of gifts that [Weitzman] has made has immediately allowed us to make scholarships for graduate students at the Weitzman School, which basically doubled the yield on our top student admits and is enabling us to do this," Gutmann said. "[This] will actually make a huge difference to the center — the very center of our campus — and connect our whole campus."
Gutmann said at the meeting she views Engineering, Penn Athletics, and College Green all as part of the central campus, so opening up this pathway will remove the barriers which have created a divide between the east and west side of campus.
The trustees also discussed changes to Penn's iconic College Hall.
The stone columns at College Hall's ground floor entrance facing Penn Commons will be removed. Papageorge said Penn plans to create a glass entrance so students walking through Penn Commons can see through College Hall and into the new Penn First Plus office.
The Penn Admissions center was previously located on the ground floor of College Hall and moved into Claudia Cohen Hall in late May.
When discussing renovation details about the ground floor of College Hall, Provost Wendell Pritchett said placing the Penn First Plus office in College Hall reflects the University’s dedication to FGLI students.
The presentation read that, in addition to the new glass entrance, the Penn First Plus office will feature six closed offices, two meeting rooms, a study lounge, and support space. The office will take up 2,500 total interior square feet.
“The single biggest driver of cost is the removing of these columns that are big structures obstructing an entrance to what is a prime property of College Hall," Gutmann said. "It’s just going to change the whole sense of what it is like to be on Penn Commons and looking into College Hall."
Down the hall from the Penn First Plus office, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Paideia Program will have three closed offices, three work stations, a support space, and a shared meeting room with Penn First Plus.
Gutmann said the presence of both the Penn First Plus office and the Paideia Program in College Hall and the sharing between the two programs "shouts [Penn’s] values."
The Board of Trustees full board meetings are scheduled for three times a year. The fall stated meeting involving the entire board takes place Friday while a series of trustees committee meetings took place Thursday.
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