Campus changes begin

A plan to improve student housing - begun more than two years ago and estimated to take an additional 10 years and cost $300 million - was outlined by Interim Provost Michael Wachter and Executive Vice President John Fry at an Oct. 29 meeting with the University's Board of Trustees.

The plan calls for renovation of every student residence and responds to the need for more student housing by building new facilities to accomodate 1,000 new beds, Fry said.

The residential changes are part of the new college house system, which is "at the very core of improving undergraduate life at Penn in the 21st century," Wachter said.

Director of the Office of College Houses and Academic Services and Art History Professor David Brownlee agreed.

"The college houses have quickly become naturalized into the University's activities," Brownlee said. "They are an expected and ordinary part of the landscape - widely accepted and uncontroversial."

Many amenities and improvements to the system fell into place over the summer, Brownlee said. Coming to every college house are "the physical amenities that we find in the best college houses today."

Those include more and better computer labs; expanded exercise, dining and music rooms; seminar and study rooms; improved lobby-entrances in houses without centers, particularly in the Quad; and further developments in the Wheel Project (they're "rolling along," Brownlee said) - academic support services available around the clock, on-line or in person, for a range of subjects, including language, writing, mathematics, library research and computing.

Fry also outlined goals for the dining renewal program to include renovation of existing dining facilities and new construction over the next decade.

New construction will reconfigure Hamilton Village, the area formerly known as Superblock. Alongside the new and renovated housing are ongoing changes to the commercial character of 40th Street, which include a new Sundance Cinema, a specialty food store and other retail developments.

The expansion and restoration projects are unparalleled in scope, said Associate Vice President for Campus Services Larry Moneta.

"There's a very important relationship between the growth of the college house system on-campus and the revitalization efforts ongoing in the West Philadelphia initiatives," Moneta said.

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Originally published on December 3, 1998