Editorial: The construction conundrum

Mitchell Patterson /THE REVIEW
The construction on the South Green is ongoing.

Last year, The Review announced that “The Green is gone.” When 19th century German mustache-enthusiast Friedrich Nietzsche announced that “God is dead,” he did so with the same iconoclastic sadness with which we must now report that the Green is gone, the Green remains gone, and poor construction scheduling has killed it.

Just before last semester ended, students cheered as the bulldozers partially drove away, the pipe trenches were refilled in places and the grass was replanted. It appeared that our hopes of having the lovely scenery south of Memorial may have been restored. Then, like a cruel dog owner might tell his pooch that he has a treat in hand when, in fact, his hand is empty, the bulldozers returned and transformed the Green again into an irritating eyesore.

The primary aim of this five-phase project is to install improved chilled water and condensed steam piping on the South Green. These pipes will conduct cold and hot water to different buildings. Construction there is not expected to conclude until March 2020.

Wherever one looks, one sees a campus under construction. To the eye of a prospective student and their family, the university surely loses the aesthetic appeal which draws so many in.

Once more, students coming down from north of Memorial Hall on the Lammot du Pont Lab side are treated to Washington-style gridlock as they try to navigate this strange rat-maze of blacked-out fencing. Those trying to commute on the Morris Library side have similar irritations, and they are treated to a daily reminder that Bleecker Street has been inexplicably — and not prettily — sealed away to be replaced with… something? Some kind of bird’s nest which will be an improvement… somehow?

The renovations in Perkins and the redesign of the Scrounge have been a source of controversy among students and staff members alike, although the university is quick to reassure them that the work therein is not finished.

North of Memorial Hall isn’t exactly in perfect shape either, as we’re sure you’ve noticed. The walkways around Old College, Jastak-Burgess Hall, and the Little Bob have been rearranged into such a jumble of dead ends and scaffolded barricades that — with each revisit — students feel it has almost been tailor made for inconvenience. Surprisingly, the construction on Main Street has thus far been the most inoffensive nuisance.

The $11.8 million Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) project to revitalize Main Street aging concrete structure was initially met with serious concern from business owners, city government officials, students and other community members. The layer of concrete beneath the surface of the road is no longer usable and needed to be replaced. There were fears that construction on Main Street while school was in session would result in significant revenue loss for local businesses. In response, DelDOT held workshops and meetings with city officials to ensure that any impact on the local economy by construction would be mitigated.

The city of Newark additionally created an email address, DOT MainStreetNewark@delaware.gov, to address any other citizens’ concerns.

Compare the city’s handling of their one construction project to the university’s current arsenal of construction projects. Students and faculty receive virtually no word from Hullihen Hall to explain why it is now so difficult to get around certain spots on campus. The university wields considerable power and influence within Newark compared to the city government.

It must be understood that the infrastructure repairs, construction projects and renovations are often necessary to the upkeep of the university. We would be loathe to suggest that these projects aren’t worthy of the money and manpower which the university throws at them. We would, however, suggest that the simultaneous scheduling of these projects makes the university appear to lack forethought.

From the student body’s point of view, one might assume that the university is either not conducting maintenance on its infrastructure until the very last possible moment — why else must such massive undertakings all occur within the same general time frame? — or that the university is simply trying to make the campus uglier and the lives of the students less convenient.

The latter explanation is certainly not true. This is an institution whose function is ostensibly to provide thousands of people with education, food and housing. We, the editorial board of The Review, ask that the university therefore make more of an effort to plan out their upcoming construction projects in such a way as to prevent more irritation. If the citizens of Newark may expect that their government will take the concerns of the local economy into account when cooperating with the State to conduct road repairs, the students of the university may expect that it will not arrange so many projects so close together on a calendar for such a long period of time.

This editorial is intended to reflect the majority opinion of the staff of The Review. This week’s editorial was written by Mitchell Patterson. He may be reached at JMPatter@udel.edu.

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