College blasts its way into period of construction

Claire Grunewald

When students return to campus this fall, they will encounter both the foundation of the $75 million Rockwell Integrated Science Center and the vacant houses on McCartney Street.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new science center will take place May 11. Construction on the McCartney Street housing will start spring 2018 and the homes will remain vacant until then, according to Vice President of Finance Roger Demareski.

Demareski said both new constructions are set to be completed and in use by the fall 2019.

The college recently announced that the science center would be named after Kent Rockwell ‘66, who President Alison Byerly said contributed a $28 million gift in 2013 towards the building. He donated another recent multimillion dollar gift toward both the science center and need-based aid.

Demareski said the groundbreaking is going to involve “[blasting] some rock,” not typical for this kind of ceremony.

This will start the 6-8 weeks of blasting necessary for the foundation to be put in place by next fall.

While progress on the science center will be noticeable in the fall, the college still has several steps it must take before construction for the new dorms can commence.

At last week’s Easton City Council meeting, the city voted 4 to 2 to adopt changes to their ordinance to change zoning restrictions that would allow for Lafayette to construct their new mixed-used dormitories.

There are still two steps before that project can begin. Demareski said the college must still submit a land development plan to the Easton Planning Commission. Once the land development plan is approved, they must then go before the zoning board to receive “special exception” status, which is permitted use with additional checks to keep the city more involved in what happens in terms of development.

He added most of what the college has to submit has already been presented in the original presentations to the city surrounding the zoning changes, and he is confident in the plans the college has submitted.

“It’s our job to have a complete study and to address all the issues, and if we’ve done that then I think we’ll be successful. So it really falls on the college to follow the rules that are established and make sure that we adhere to them,” Demareski said.

These dorms are only phase one of three of the $80 million expansion project which spans over eight years. Demareski said this first phase consists of construction on High Street from the corner of Cattell Street to McCartney Street, and then along McCartney Street up to the corner across from Campus Pizza. This site has three separate buildings.

The site for the next phase of the expansion spans from next to Campus Pizza down to Clinton Terrace, and the third site would consists of two dormitories where the Watson Courts are currently located.

According to Demareski however, the college is focused on phase one, and will submit separate land development plans for the other two locations when the time comes.

“The entire plan is set up so that at any time if we don’t feel we’re on the right path, we need to pause, we need to make a change, that we have flexibility built into the plan, which is why there are three phases of housing,” he said.

However, Demareski recognizes that nothing with the project is set in stone until the college gains the city’s approval.

“None of it’s a given. It’s all very much subject to the approval of the city,” he said.