March 27, 2007

Housing Initiative to Finish Two Years Early

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While Cornell may appear to be under perpetual construction, the new West Campus is currently scheduled to be completed by August 2008, almost two years ahead of schedule and still right on budget at about $225 million, according to Edna R. Doogan, West Campus Council co-chair and assistant vice president for finance and administration and student and academic services. Bethe House will become a program house this August with Prof. Porus Olpadwala, city and regional planning, as the first House Professor and Dean of Bethe House. It will be the third house out of five that will eventually comprise the West Campus House System.

“[Construction] is going well. If you were to go down [to West] at this point, the Bethe House and Noyes Community Center just came on line in January, and the demolition of the remaining older houses has started. Two of the three older houses will be down by the end of the semester,” said Stephen T. Golding, executive vice president of finance and administration.

Despite the projected early completion of the West Campus House System, neither quality nor quantity will be sacrificed, according to Golding. The overall project is faster partially because contracts for Houses 4 and 5 were accelerated to reduce overall cost and control increases in costs due to inflation. Since the remaining houses are very similar in structure to the current Cook, Becker and Bethe Houses, experience gained from building these houses is also giving the construction team an edge.

“We have learned a great deal about how to build the dorms and have benefited from keeping the same contractor,” Golding said. “The reason why we are able to finish early is that we learned how to build buildings more efficiently … We have not cut any corners.”

In addition, the opening of Bethe House this past January as a residence hall for students who previously resided in the traditional Class halls allowed the construction team to begin tearing down the old dorms early.

“For this spring semester, there is the same Campus Life staffing level for the students living in the new building as was provided when those students lived in the traditional Class halls last semester,” Doogan said.

Next semester, Bethe House will open as a complete house program. Construction on the house is primarily complete except for minor fixes, according to John Rantanen, a superintendent involved in the project.

“It’s done, other than a few loose ends. For example, in [Bethe House] dining room, we have to change the panels on the ceiling during spring break, but there’s nothing wrong with it now,” Rantanen said.