Minutes of the Science Center Subcommittee

18 May 2001

Present: Betsy Bolton, Lisa Meeden, Larry Schall, Ken Sharpe

Ken and Betsy asked to be told about the history of the project-the rationale for using the rugby field as a staging area; the rationale for using it as a parking lot-and the details of the current plan.

Larry explained that the practical, building side of the project was addressed only quite recently, particularly in relation to the overall project history; most of the Committee's time had been spent on programming and design. This practical side of planning is typically led by a construction manager: the Committee hired a construction management firm and then fired them, which led to a loss of momentum. What from the neighborhood's perspective looked like two separate plans-a staging plan and a parking lot plan-was rather the movement from no specific plan to a detailed plan. Larry wasn't sure whether or not he had originally said "lay down area and parking" or not, but from the start he intended "lay down area" to include construction materials, trailers, utility routes, excavation, and cars. (N.B. Larry's letter to the College community dated 11/27/00 states the following: "...we will need to accommodate over 100 construction vehicles, so parking lots may need to be restructured. We will be taking over Dupont field for additional parking and project lay-down and storage.")

We then turned to some of the details of the plan. Lisa and Larry helped orient Ken and Betsy to the drawings. Faculty, student, and staff access to the building during the construction process will be from the north & west sides of the building, since the south facing Kohlberg quad, will be used for trailers and construction materials.

We spent some time discussing the new access road, and the difference between and purposes of the two roads. The new access road is required at first because the existing road will not only be moved, but will actually disappear for a "multi-month" period (precise timing is a question for the contractor). In its place will be a trench filled with water pipes, electric, fiber optics, and so on. Once these utilities are laid down, the old road past Dupont will be re-sited on top of the trench. For the several months involved in laying those utilities and re-establishing the road, the Dupont lot will be inaccessible except via the new access road. This new access road could be moved somewhat closer to the re-site road, but it needs to be far enough away for the machinery involved in laying pipes, etc., to operate: Larry estimated roughly 20 feet away.

Ken asked about the calculations done to determine which parking spaces would be lost. Neither Larry nor Lisa served on the Logistics Committee that made the determinations, and so could not answer precisely, but estimated the total number at 50. Larry said he would get a copy of the numbers of slots "lost" from each of the relevant areas: the Hicks lot, Whittier, the Elm Avenue turning radius, and the strip behind Dupont. Lisa explained what Mara meant in saying that the spaces lost from Hicks were a "design" feature: while spots would be lost from one end of the lot while the utilities were being laid, they could be regained once that phase of construction was over. For a variety of design reasons, however, the new access road to Hicks and Beardsley is placed directly opposite the new road which runs north to the Dupont lot. This provides a clearer and more visually attractive entrance to the college, which is important since most visitors to the college enter this way. It would also remove dumpsters and so on from the line of vision of people walking the tree-lined path north from Kohlberg.

Larry articulated the principles underlying the Science Center parking plan:

Ken summarized in these terms: so if x = lost spots and y = contractor parking needs, x+y=150. Where did you get the construction figure from? Asked the contractor presumably?

Larry said that there had been numerous conversations with the contractor about their parking needs, and that the contractor had been pushed hard to reduce parking needs. This particular firm is building the science center at Haverford and so has experience with a similar project, though, as Lisa noted, ours is bigger. The firm did an analysis of trades and of people and came up with the figure of 100. Lisa noted that 100 was a peak figure, but that a better term might be "plateau": this peak number of spots might be needed for as long as seven months at a time. The number of tradespeople increases after the exterior work has been done: it takes more people to get the interior up and running (electricians, etc.). The Science project has staged openings: first the commons addition will open, then chemistry, etc. As a result, the interior work will last over a longer number of months than if all departments were to open simultaneously. Larry said he would provide copies of the 20-page project schedule, broken down by trades, so we would have a sense of when the external work might finish.

We talked about the project's original goal of keeping faculty/staff parking partially separate from construction parking. (The "lot" behind Martin, near the Music building, was always going to remain faculty/staff parking, so some "mingling" of the two groups was always inevitable. But the first rugby parking lot was designed to accommodate all the displaced faculty/staff parking in order to minimize interactions between these two groups.) We described three problems that came up from mingling the two groups in different ways:

We worked through Mara's three plans for the rugby lot.

Larry then reviewed Vlad's suggestions for 8 lots, as follows:

  1. Dupont: see Mara's revised plan.
  2. Water Tower lot: Mara designed it and believes it is fully efficient. Larry said he could get us a scaled drawing to look at.
  3. Cunningham lot: Wlad said with an extra meter, he could create an additional 40 spots here. While the center aisle is large, it's not large enough to squeeze in an additional aisle. The lot is 50 feet wide at its narrow end; 45 degree angle parking requires an aisle roughly 12 feet wide, and bays of approximately 16 feet. This adds up to 45ft and 6inches. An extra three feet does not produce another aisle; certainly not two aisles. Mara suggested extending the lot at either end, to increase it from 44-54 spots.
  4. South entrance (near the student lot by the train station): the grade from the road down to the field makes it impossible to put parking spots there.
  5. College Ave (from 320 up to the Arboretum): this is a boro road, and the boro is not going to allow us to park in a way which narrows the road. Even if we owned the road, we wouldn't put additional parking here, because it's a main College entrance as well as the construction entrance for the project.
  6. Merz service road. Larry has 3 reasons not to use: 1) It will be the construction entrance for the new dorm project. 2) Strip parking is the most visually destructive: not many cars still give the sense of a parking lot. 3) It's South rather than North campus parking.
  7. Ben West. Parking is already tight; it's South campus; any available spots will be needed for the new dorm project.
  8. Near the Athletic fields and the Barn. There are some spaces that could be made available. Again, these will be needed for the new dorm project.

We then talked about the actual construction material proposed for the rugby lot. Given the range of alternatives from muddy grass through gravel to asphalt and concrete, the Committee selected asphalt for three reasons:

  1. It's 2-3 times cheaper than concrete and used widely at the college (for paths and so forth), and it's considered environmentally safe.
  2. It allows for easy plowing and maintenance.
  3. It's easy and safe to walk on.

Larry said that if the lot were to be for construction workers, wearing boots and driving 4WD trucks, it could be gravel, but this seemed less appropriate for the relatively elderly faculty-staff population at Swarthmore.

We discussed the relative costs of removal. Larry thought the cost of removing asphalt would be roughly the same as removing gravel; Lisa thought it might be more expensive to remove gravel because it compacts into the soil. Removal of the parking lot has been priced as part of the Science Center project, but Larry already knows that the project will finish over budget. So funding for removing the parking lot (and other items) is a little up in the air. It's likely that the lot would be used again for the Parrish renovation project, since parking for the contractors won't be available on Parrish lawn (slope, etc. makes this impractical). Ken noted that when it comes to the Parrish project, the construction workers would have to walk substantially further than under the current plan for the Science Center project.

We tentatively established a meeting with Mara, the landscape architect, and Chaz, the construction manager, for Tuesday from 1-3. We also spoke about the possibility of bringing in an outside consultant at some point in the future: Larry said he would try to come up with some names of people we might consider, and Betsy and Ken said they would come up with some names as well.

After Lisa left to go to the faculty meeting, Ken, Betsy and Larry spoke briefly about the secondary charge of the committee: to come up with a process to resolve noise abatement issues and neighborhood concerns during the process of construction. Ken expressed his hope that we might deal with the issue briefly, perhaps by circulating some ideas in writing within the committee, and then a 15-minute discussion or so. Larry said Ken's hope of dealing with noise abatement issues before the issue arise was problematic because of the long and circuitous construction route: if all the houses were to be sound-proofed, this would mean expending a lot of resources where they might not be necessarily needed, while the 2-3 houses that really needed a lot of work might not receive their due. We also spoke about the proposal that Mike Boyd be the contact person over the summer. Larry said neither he nor Stu Hain could act as point person because they're both needed elsewhere. Mike is the appropriate person: he knows what's going on with the construction and can call the contractor to get a change made. We talked about the possibility of finding ways to ensure Mike is responsive to the community, and of giving out the number of Mike's cell phone instead of the answering machine.

At Larry's request, Betsy agreed to circulate minutes as email attachments.

return to Home Page

Send message to the chair of the Science Project User's Group , Rachel Merz (rmerz1@swarthmore.edu)

last updated 6/03/01