Ask Benny: Is construction taking over Hill Field?

Dear Benny,
Walking along 34th Street the other day I noticed that Hill Field is now fenced off in one section, near Walnut, and several yellow earth-moving vehicles have taken up residence. What’s going on? Yet more campus construction? Will there still be enough open space for ultimate Frisbee?
—Always on the lookout

Dear Campus Watcher,
That’s right, our ever-changing campus is getting another new building, and one designed by an eminent architect—New York’s Robert A.M. Stern. Groundbreaking for the new facility—which will house the McNeil Center for Early American Studies—happened in mid February, with completion slated for late this year.

In case you’re not familiar with it, the McNeil Center specializes in the histories and cultures of North America in the Atlantic world before 1850. Currently sharing rather cramped digs with the Penn Humanities Forum at 3619 Locust Walk, the Center has been around (in various locations) for some 26 years and offers yearlong fellowships for researchers across multiple disciplines. The new building, in the “modern traditional” style Stern is known for, will include a working library, lecture hall, conference room and 17 offices for the Center’s fellows.

And you needn’t worry about the building impinging upon Hill Fields’ open green space. Says Omar Blaik, senior vice president of facilities and real estate services, “The Center’s relatively small footprint inside Hill Square allows it to co-exist with its surroundings, and most importantly, the preserved open space that students rely upon for recreation.”

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Originally published on March 17, 2005