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Amy Gutmann Hall, expected to be opened in August 2024, will house classrooms, laboratories, and an auditorium. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

After undergraduate students left campus at the end of the spring semester, construction projects to build and renovate several locations on campus kicked into high gear.

The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke to Chris Kern, Penn's executive director of design and construction, and Mark Kocent, the University architect, about some of the numerous changes made on campus since spring 2023.

Stouffer College House

Renovations to Stouffer College House – which cost $35.3 million, up from an earlier reported cost of $29.8 million – began in May 2022 and were completed in August.

The renovations include improvements such as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, new elevators, new windows, and updated rooms and common spaces, according to a report from Facilities and Real Estates Services. Additionally, the entrance of the building was moved from Woodland Walk to the corner of 38th and Spruce streets, providing increased accessibility to a new elevator that was installed.

“I think everyone will be really pleased with the outcome of the transformation of that building,” Kern said.

Amy Gutmann Hall

The topping-off ceremony for Amy Gutmann Hall – whose construction is expected to cost $137.5 million, up from the previously reported $117 million – occurred in July. Exterior window installation and mass timber erection is scheduled for September, according to Kern.

Amy Gutmann Hall is expected to be occupied in August 2024 and will house a data science research center and academic learning spaces such as a student lounge, a grab-and-go cafe, a reading room, classrooms, laboratories, and an auditorium. The building will be the tallest new mass timber structure in Philadelphia.

“[N]ow there’s a building at the corner of 34th and Chestnut where there wasn't one; it was just a big pit when students left," Kern said.

College Hall West Wing

Renovations to the West Wing of College Hall will cost $87.4 million and include new HVAC systems, upgraded windows and roofing, all-gender restrooms, updates to office suites and classrooms, and new elevators. The improvements continued over the summer with internal work and demolition to install new elevators and air handling units, Kern said. Window replacement to the center and east wings is scheduled to start in December.

The Daily Pennsylvanian previously reported that the fencing in front of College Hall will remain in place during the construction period and will be removed toward the end of the two-year renovation period, with expected occupancy in January 2025. 

Graduate School of Education

The Graduate School of Education underwent an expansion and renovation at 37th and Walnut streets that will be ready for the start of classes.

The new expansion includes a new connector building between 3700 Walnut St. and Stiteler Hall that will provide full access to both buildings as well as additional student collaboration spaces, classrooms, offices, and teaching labs.

Vagelos Laboratory for Energy Science and Technology

The laboratory, which will be located on 32nd and Walnut streets next to David Rittenhouse Laboratory, began construction in January 2022 and is expected to be occupied in January 2025. 

When completed, the building will include wet chemistry research labs and optics research labs for energy and sustainability-focused researchers in the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

McDonald’s redevelopment

Excavation work to replace the former one-story McDonald’s at 40th and Walnut streets with a six-story mixed-use building continued over the summer, according to Kocent.

Expected to be occupied in January 2025, the building will include five floors of office space for student services overseen by the vice provost for University Life, with the McDonald’s returning to the first floor of the building after it closed in January 2023.

David Rittenhouse Laboratory

A significant upgrade to the air handling units in DRL was completed, as well as renovations to the second floor of the building, which houses the Math Department and the Physics and Astronomy Department.