Planning Board to consider major construction projects

By Stephen Neukam

Correction: Due to incomplete information provided by a Rider spokesman, The Rider News incorrectly reported on Feb. 5 that the university’s permits for construction for the consolidation of Westminster Choir College were expected later than the administration anticipated. In fact, contrary to the spokesman’s written statement to a reporter that there were “no substantive changes” to prior information regarding permitting, permits were approved for construction in Omega House and Gill Chapel in January, according to the Lawrence Township Construction Office. In addition, next month the town’s Planning Board is expected to consider the university’s applications for major construction projects at the Fine Arts Center, the Science and Technology Center and a 6,000 sq. ft. storage building at the back of the campus.

Preparations for renovations are complete in two buildings across campus while a plan for “complete renovations” to Moore Library has been approved in preparation for the movement of Westminster Choir College (WCC) to Lawrenceville in September.

In Omega House, which up until the end of last semester housed students in the Fine and Performing Arts living learning community, demolition and abatement has been completed for a renovation plan that will turn the building into space for WCC faculty offices.

Days before Thanksgiving break last semester, residents in Omega House were told that they needed to be moved out of their rooms by Dec. 17. Most students ended up in Poyda Hall, while others were spread throughout various dorms. 

The same process has also concluded in Gill Chapel, where renovations are expected to create new performing space and rehearsal spaces, 13 practice rooms, worship spaces and an expanded lobby.

To begin renovations in the buildings, the school needs permits from Lawrence Township. The permits for Omega House and Gill Chapel were approved in January. However, according to the township’s Planning Board, the university has applied for three different permits and they are scheduled to be considered by the board on March 16.

The work in Omega House and Gill Chapel are not the only changes coming to campus. In addition to the already-revealed plans for the Fine Arts Center, the Science and Technology Building and the Bart Luedeke Center, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen announced in an email that plans for an overhaul to Moore Library have been agreed on.

Changes are expected for the top three floors of the library, according to the email. The renovations to the top two floors are intended to house the material from Talbott Library, the library on WCC’s Princeton campus. These renovations, according to Fredeen, are expected to include a top-floor space dedicated to Talbott’s Special Collection and scores, choral music titles, sound and video recordings and more, along with new offices for Talbott faculty and staff on the third floor that will also include a new circulation area for the Princeton library’s materials.

According to the university, it is not expected that permits will be required for the changes in Moore Library. The work is expected to begin in March 2020.

Freshman sacred music major Jordan Klotz, who is a party to the 71-student lawsuit that was filed against Rider in October 2019, said that he was grateful for those in the process that have worked to make the transition as accommodating as possible but that the changes were insufficient to embody the prestige and history of WCC’s current stature.

“At the end of the day, revoking conservatory status from Westminster, a 20th-century musical icon, creates an atmosphere that does not cultivate the same musical and educational environment that WCC has had since its founding,” said Klotz.

The renovations are part of the $16 million to $20 million consolidation plan that the university announced shortly after the sale of WCC to a Chinese education company went under in July 2019.

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