By Shanna O’Mara
As students look forward to cruising off campus and enjoying summer break, the gates to a suddenly quiet campus will open, welcoming cement trucks and construction vehicles.
Rider has planned a major construction project for this summer which will include renovations to the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) as well as upgrades to residence halls and academic buildings.
“We’re calling it the Hundred Day War,” Mike Reca, vice president of facilities and university operations, said of the project set to be completed by fall 2018. “I have 100 days to get this done.”
President Gregory Dell’Omo stressed the importance of this timely plan.
“We talk about a vibrant living community,” he said. “The campus plays a very important role in the overall strategy and the experience of our students, faculty and staff, particularly when you tie it to the Engaged Learning Program. The campus has to serve not only functionality needs — classrooms and things — but also this sense of wanting to be on campus, attracting both prospective students as well as faculty, staff and the current students.”
The majority of the planned projects will be funded by $38.75 million of bond proceeds from this past fall. Donor contributions will also help cover expenses, Reca said.
Landscaping efforts will brighten the Campus Mall. Wilting trees along the edges of the grass will be replaced by younger, blooming shrubbery.
“They just don’t flower as much as they used to,” Reca said. “They’re looking a little ‘Nightmare Before Christmas-ish.’”
The other main focus is the now-outdated design of the BLC.
“The BLC will get a facelift and the entranceway will be changed,” Dell’Omo said.
Reca said the concrete around the building will be torn up and leveled so that the entrance will lead to glass doors on the ground floor. The information kiosk may be moved downstairs to be near the Financial Services Office, and a rubber floor adorned with a Rider insignia will accommodate frequent foot traffic.
A canopy will be added over the front entrance as well as stonework similar to that outside Alumni Gym. The plaza will also feature planting beds and outdoor charging stations.
Sweigart Hall is another site for planned internal renovations, including construction of a Wall Street-themed teaching lab.
“We’re going to be doing the data analytics room on the first floor with a lot of glass, the [stock market] ticker — real active, real business-like,” Reca said. “We’re going to change the look inside the building to be more corporate.”
Improvements will also be made this summer to two residence halls. Priority focus is on Ridge and Wright, which have not been occupied this semester in preparation for the work, slated to begin in three to four weeks.
These improvements come on the heels of Gee Hall reopening this past fall. That dorm now boasts air conditioning, renovated bathrooms, carpeted hallways and fresh paint.
“Residence halls play a key part,” Dell’Omo said. “With residence halls filled up, that creates that engaged learning experience that goes beyond the 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.]”
The Science building is the most comprehensive part of the plan.
“Part of the science center will be done,” Dell’Omo said. “That’ll be part of a two-year project because we can’t take all the labs offline [at once], so we will do half this summer and half next summer.”
Work will begin on the first and third floors this coming summer, and the second floor will be updated during the summer of 2019.
Senior behavioral neuroscience major Jennifer Londregan is looking forward to the renovation of the research labs, even if she graduates before its completion. She said she and the other research assistants bundle up just to do their assignments.
“As a lab student, it is really unfortunate to deal with no heat,” she said, turning the small space heater on the floor toward her. “I spend morning and night in here, wearing a winter jacket.”
Dell’Omo is confident these renovations will create a better learning and living environment for future-generation Broncs.
“You really have to continue to make those investments in your infrastructure and make sure you’re offering all those kinds of experiences, both academic as well as social experiences for everybody,” he said.