You might not be able to tell when you’re driving past on Route 32 South, but the new, as-yet-unnamed Science Hall on the SUNY New Paltz campus has been open and in use since the spring 2017 semester. The 77,000-square-foot classroom and lab building is still surrounded by tall chain-link fences, however, which make it look unfinished. All that remains to be done is landscaping, which is expected to be completed in the cooler, moister weather of early autumn.
But a major project like this nearing completion doesn’t mean that John Shupe, assistant vice president for Facilities Management at the college for the past 16 years, gets to sit on his laurels. More than 20 newer construction and renovation projects are currently underway, with as many more still on the drawing boards. And Shupe has been juggling two jobs since March, when John McEnrue moved on from his post as SUNY New Paltz’s director of Facilities Design and Construction. But you won’t hear Shupe complaining. Compared to the dearth of capital funding from New York State back in 2011, when the college last overhauled its Master Plan, having too many projects to juggle — more than $40 million worth this summer alone — is, he says, “a great problem to have.”
Last week, Shupe took a reporter and a photographer from the New Paltz Times for a tour of a few of the sites on campus where work is in progress. Have you ever crossed over the plaza eastward from mid-campus to the Haggerty Administration Building (HAB) and the Student Union (SUB)? Ever give any thought to what was under your feet, besides concrete slabs? That deck is also a roof, with office space serving both buildings down below. And in recent years, stormwater has been leaking through it. But a major fix is happening this summer: The old pavers have been pried up, several layers of heavy-duty asphalt and rubberized roofing materials and moisture barriers laid down, followed by a new covering of concrete pavers floating over a grid of plastic corner pedestals to permit evaporation underneath.
The outer northeast corner of the plaza, on the street side of the HAB, is going to become a “green” roof, according to Shupe. Also on tap this fall for the administrative complex is the relocation of the college’s growing Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) from the fourth floor of the HAB to the ground floor of the SUB, near the Campus Bookstore.
The long-range plan to renovate one older dormitory building every two years continues apace in the Hasbrouck Quad, with the third, Bevier Hall, being completely gutted this year within a space of seven months. “We call them ‘summer slams,’” Shupe says of the accelerated construction schedule. “The Dormitory Authority wanted no part of it. But now other campuses want to do similar things.” Students living in Bevier had to move out over the 2016/17 winter break, but the residence hall was only out of service for a single semester under the aggressive plan. The $19 million renovation cost comes out of student fees, he notes — not state support.
Nearby, the Hasbrouck Dining Hall will soon be the new home to a much-missed amenity: a “phenomenal campus bakery” that was driven out of the Service Building when that structure was renovated a few years ago. “It’ll be open by January,” Shupe says.
Our tour includes close-up views of very practical (and aesthetically pleasing) entryway and hallway improvements that have been incorporated into Crispell, LeFevre and Bevier Halls to enhance their handicapped accessibility. “My mantra is, ‘People with disabilities come in the front door,” Shupe avers. Wheelchair lifts have been installed at strategic corners so that all students have simplified access to lounges and other social spaces. Hallway configurations on the first floor have been changed to increase the number of handicapped-accessible suites. Designwise, the renovated dorms are more visually appealing as well, with peaked roofs replacing flat, institutional-looking ones. And they will all be LEED Gold-certified
Elsewhere on campus, Shupe is excited about a $1.5 million plan currently in progress to expand, modernize and upgrade the Speech-Language and Hearing Center, located in the Humanities Building, in response to the growing popularity of SUNY New Paltz’s Communication Disorders Program. Students returning this fall will be able to use the renovated facility.
Quick progress is also being made on a 217-kilowatt photovoltaic array and lithium ion battery storage system, which Shupe calls “the largest of its kind on the East Coast.” To be used for education and research as well as to help make the campus more sustainable, the system is being erected atop the Sojourner Truth Library and Elting Gym, with funding provided by the New York Power Authority, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Electric Power Research Institute and Central Hudson Gas & Electric The ribbon-cutting ceremony is slated for October. Central Hudson is also providing matching funds for the college to swap fluorescent interior lighting for highly efficient, long-lasting LED bulbs, as has already been accomplished with the exterior campus lighting.
In terms of high-tech improvements, the big news is the 20,000-square-foot Engineering Innovation Hub that will break ground this fall, near the Resnick Engineering Hall. The project is made by a $10 million economic development challenge grant awarded under Governor Cuomo’s NYSUNY 2020 grant competition. Slated for completion in 2019, the new building will enable SUNY New Paltz to offer a Mechanical Engineering baccalaureate program and also provided expanded space for public/private partnership projects utilizing the college’s wildly popular 3-D printing lab.
Swinging from such futuristic concerns to the college’s 19th-century heritage, the historic Old Main Building is adding a couple of finishing touches to its multiyear renovation project. The ornate arch-topped divided-light window on the front of the building has been removed for restoration and is due to be replaced any day now. And the lettering on the “Normal School” plaque at the top of the façade is being restored so that it will be legible from ground-level.
There’s much more going on across campus, constructionwise: roof replacements, locker room renovations, heating and cooling system improvements, accessibility enhancements. Even the parking crunch will soon be alleviated somewhat, as planning progresses to add some 270 new parking spots on a newly acquired four-acre lot on Route 32 South.
It’s a good thing that John Shupe loves his jobs, because they’re certainly keeping him busy this year. To find out more about current and future renovation projects, visit www.newpaltz.edu/construction.