Construction is set to begin Monday on what will become Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s newest academic building and the first on the Indiana campus in more than 15 years.
When finished 25 months from now, the as-of-yet-unnamed building will serve as a base of operations for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
The college’s 14 departments and programs currently are spread out among at least five buildings, two of which — Keith and Leonard halls — eventually are to be demolished to make way for another new academic building and a new dining hall.
To celebrate the start of construction, the university held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday afternoon. Provost Tim Moerland told the assemblage of faculty, staff and students that the beginning of the work is worth celebrating.
“This is a joyous occasion for so many people — for the faculty, who will have modern space to share their knowledge; for every single student in the university because … each of them will enter the new facility to complete some of their core work; and for alumni, though they may be a little sad about seeing some familiar buildings go, they may now also celebrate that their alma mater takes a big step today in being agile and embracing change.”
Although the university has been in a building mode over the last several years, this is its first new academic building to go up on campus since Eberly Hall, home of the College of Business and Information Technology. The building opened in 1996.
The 126,505-square-foot humanities building will sit between Clark and Sutton halls and front Grant Street. It will house 31 classrooms and 120 offices and will include a 250-seat auditorium, an atrium and coffee shop, eight conference rooms and several specialty classrooms and labs.
The building is being constructed by the state Department of General Services on IUP’s behalf.
Funding for the project is coming directly from the state — project debt is not being carried on the books for either IUP or the State System of Higher Education. The state money primarily covers construction costs. Outfitting the building will be another matter. To that end, the university is seeking contributions, something Moerland referred to during his comments.
“We still seek support to make sure that this carefully planned facility will support an evolving curriculum,” he said.
“Alumni and friends have provided generous support already, but to ensure our curriculum will properly educate students for today and for several generations, we do require continued generosity.”
The university has found some of that generosity among its senior class, which is planning to make a contribution to the building. Senior Josh Acosta, president of the senior class gift committee, said during the ceremony that he and his classmates so far have committed more than $5,000 toward furnishing a lobby in the building.
Officials said the building is significant not only because it’s the university’s first new academic building in a while, but because of its intended use — they expect that most students will have a class or two in it at some point during their IUP careers, given the university’s general studies requirements.
Those requirements are an integral part of an IUP education, said Yaw Asamoah, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“No matter what major a student pursues, a modern society demands people who can read and write and express themselves well — people who are globally aware, can think critically, and are cognizant of their heritage,” he said. “As the dean, I think of my college as the heart and soul of the university’s academic experience. As Dr. Moerland said, every student, regardless of major, passes through our classrooms.”
But for the time being, they and other community members will have to pass around the construction site as traffic and pedestrian restrictions will be in place.
Grant Street, from 11th Street to Pratt Drive, will be closed along with a portion of the Clark Hall parking lot. Additionally, South Drive will be permanently closed to through traffic because the building will sit on top of a section of the drive. However, the drive will be open to two-way traffic from Pratt Drive to the Sutton circle.
Reserved parking and the handicapped parking along South Drive has been moved to the parking garage. Several handicapped parking spots have been temporarily established in the Sutton circle.
Access to Sutton Hall will be from the Oak Grove and East Porch entrances only.