By Christopher Brooks
Construction on the new academic complex called The Marion Buckelew Cullen Center at Westminster Choir College (WCC) is starting to wrap up. The 12,000-square-foot building will be ready for the Fall 2014 semester.
“It’s starting to look like a real building now,” said Associate Vice President of Facilities Mike Reca. “We’re in the home stretch, now and we are feeling very good about where we are.”
The new building will contain two classrooms with maximum occupancies of 45 students each, a seminar room for 16 students and the Hillman Performance Hall, which can house the entire symphonic choir and nearly 250 performers, according to Reca. In addition, the building will be located next to The Playhouse, creating a quadrangle with a courtyard for outdoor events.
“The Cullen Center is the first new building on the Princeton campus in 40 years,” WCC Dean Robert L. Annis said. “It will provide state-of-the-art teaching, rehearsal and recital spaces and will connect to the multi-purpose Playhouse building.”
The Cullen Center will also join the list of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings at Rider. LEED uses a point system to assess each building based on environmentally friendly aspects. Points are given if the construction of the building does not disrupt the surrounding natural habitat, or if the building materials are reused and recycled.
According to Reca, the new academic complex will achieve a silver certification, which Rider considers the university standard, joining the gold-certified North Hall and the silver-certified West Village.
Construction of the Cullen Center, which began in July 2013, has been “a very smooth project,” according to Reca — except for one thing, the harsh winter. The construction contract only allows for so many days of inclement weather, which the crew exceeded, but Reca is adamant that everything will be ready.
“I’m fully confident that everything will be taken care of and we will be teaching the first day of classes in the new environment,” he said. “We will have some type of certificate of occupancy by the second week of August.”
The construction crew is currently finishing the brick work on the outside, and will soon move to the interior walls and electrical systems. Following the completion of the interior, the workers will begin to furnish the building and test the heating and air conditioning. The last step will be to clean up the construction and prepare the site for landscaping.
“It’s been a very collaborative effort,” Reca said. “The support we have been getting from the WCC community is outstanding.” It’s going to be very well received.”