Wesleyan University to begin $311M campus renovations

Photo of Cassandra Day

MIDDLETOWN — Wesleyan University will embark on three building projects estimated to cost some $311.4 million, including renovations to the center that houses its economics, government and other offices, a relocation of the art gallery and new science facility.

The estimated cost of the Public Affairs Center on Church Street and art gallery projects, including a hot water pipe expansion, is $56.4 million. The new science center, and laboratories renovation, will be approximately $255 million, university spokeswoman Olivia Drake said.

The projects are being funded through institutional money and private support.

Collections, offices and other portions of the Davison Art Gallery on High Street will eventually be housed at the new location, which will be set between the east end of Olin Library on Church Street and the campus walkway behind Judd Hall. Much of the collection has already moved to the library, Drake said.

The gallery closed last January and will remain that way through January 2023, according to the website.

The science center is only a work in progress and has not yet been approved by the Board of Trustees. If that happens, work could begin in 2023 and be completed by 2026, Drake said.

“We were ready to do it, and when the pandemic hit, we paused for a year,” President Michael Roth said about the PAC plan at a recent Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce virtual luncheon, where he was guest speaker.

The PAC project involves a complete remodel of the current building, which was constructed in 1927 as a dormitory; demolition of its front and back additions, which were added in 1954; and removal of the concrete and brick plaza, constructed in 1984, according to the university.

Construction is expected to begin June 1.

“It’s going to be a fabulous building,” Roth said at the meeting, adding the structure will include state-of-the-art technology, which will complement the 300 buildings on the university’s 300-acre land, he said.

“We really want to make sure our campus is more and more energy-efficient. We’re replacing our energy infrastructure, which is pretty old-fashioned,” the president said.

Sustainability is very important to the administration, Roth said.

Underground steam pipes, some of which are 100 years old, heat a portion of the college’s facilities. “We’re replacing them chunk by chunk,” Roth said. “With these new buildings, and, as we’re able to replace that infrastructure, we will become a much more sustainable campus from an economic position.”

The new, three-story brick PAC structure, designed by Newman Architects, of New Haven, will be built atop of the former plaza site, according to the school. It will be connected by an airy, multi-function, glass-walled space, and provide access to the social sciences and study areas, the university said.

The new facility will house 15 classrooms, 67 faculty offices, six meeting rooms, two lounges, and ample open space with seating and gathering areas. Classes will resume in the renewed PAC in spring 2024.

The proposed, 193,000-square-foot science facility would be built east of Shanklin and Hall Atwater Laboratories, and nestled between Church Street and Lawn Avenue.

Designed by Boston-based Payette Architects, the modernized building would replace the 56-year-old Hall-Atwater Laboratory, and include 39 research and support labs, nine teaching labs, seven classrooms, a vivarium, renovated greenhouse, and the Advanced Instrumentation Lab, the university said.

Chamber President Larry McHugh applauds these types of “signature” projects. “Any time there is economic activity going on, you put people to work in the construction trades. It creates interest not only in Middletown, but what’s going on around our region.”