By Austin Ferguson
As a part of ongoing preparations for the consolidation of Westminster Choir College (WCC) to the Lawrenceville campus, the university announced details of its largest project for the consolidation to date: renovations and a three-story addition to Fine Arts.
Details of the project were shared with members of the Rider community on Feb. 5 in an email from Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen.
“The Facilities Working Group has done an outstanding job in creating these plans to benefit all Rider students while paying particular attention to the needs of those coming from the Princeton campus,” Fredeen said toward the beginning of her message.
Construction, which is set to begin in the spring, will involve with changes to the existing structure of Fine Arts, headlined by a new main entrance in front of the Yvonne Theater.
The new facade will be accompanied by the new Art Gallery, which according to Vice President for Facilities and University Operations Mike Reca, will relocated from the second floor of the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) to the lobby in front of the Yvonne theater.
Other first-floor renovations include a new lobby to the Yvonne Theater, upgraded bathrooms and common areas and renovations to classroom spaces to become music classrooms and create space for Westminster’s bell choir.
Renovations to the second floor, which have been ongoing since summer 2019, aim to create a wing for communication students. After the relocation of the Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) Dean’s Suite to Lynch Adler Hall and the eventual move of faculty offices, the entire floor will be dedicated to communications, including additions of editing and production studios, along with labs for journalism, digital media and television.
In the former LAS Dean’s Suite, 107.7 The Bronc, Rider’s student-run radio station, will find its new home in April, relocating from the ground floor of the BLC.
Classrooms in Fine Arts will all receive renovations, which include new lights, ceilings and floorings, furniture and paint jobs. All renovations to the existing building are scheduled to finish by the start of the fall 2020 semester.
Also starting in spring 2020 is the expansion of the Fine Arts Center, though that project is not expected to be finished until the start of the fall 2021 semester.
The largest point of emphasis made for the 23,000 square-foot expansion by Fredeen was the multipurpose space that will be located on its third floor.
“Similar to the new space in Gill Chapel, it will create a flexible space able to accommodate rehearsals and performances for many programs, including choral ensembles, theatre, musical theatre and dance,” Fredeen said. “In addition to the existing Yvonne Theater and Spitz Theater, the new multipurpose room will be the third performance space in Fine Arts alone.”
The ground floor of the expansion space will include new bathrooms, dressing rooms and instructional spaces for performance-oriented needs, including opera and acting.
The second and third floors are proposed to house 40 new offices for music faculty, with all being able to accommodate a grand or upright piano. For the 2020-2021 academic year, those offices will be located in Omega House, where according to Reca, the demolition of the interior of the building is underway.
It has also been proposed that 16 new practice rooms will reside in the second and third floors of the space set to be finished in 2021.
If construction is to be finished as proposed, the number of practice rooms, which already have homes in Kroner Hall and are proposed to have homes in the renovated Gill Chapel, will rise to 53, which, according to Fredeen, will surpass the number of practice rooms available on Westminster’s campus.
Reca sees the incoming changes to Fine Arts to be exciting for Rider students.
“It’s a renovation that’s going to touch all programs in Fine Arts,” Reca said. “We’re renovating pretty much every classroom in the building and we’re shifting things around to better serve the arts program.”
Fredeen ended her statement with confidence in the project’s ability to support the students of WCC and the Lawrenceville campus.
“This project represents a major investment in the Westminster College of the Arts and our commitment to ensuring a strong and sustainable future for WCC on the Lawrenceville campus,” Fredeen said. “I’m confident this project is going to support our students in their efforts to reach the highest levels of musical and artistic achievement and contribute to their overall educational experience.”