During the two-day meetings of the University's Board of Trustees in October, the Offices of the Provost and of the Executive Vice President presented an overview of plans for renovations and construction in campus residences and along 40th Street. Following is a summary of plans presented before a closed session of the Committees on Facilities Planning, Neighborhood Initiatives, and Student Affairs. Dr. Wachter had a prepared text which he shares below, followed by an excerpt from remarks by Dr. David Brownlee. The material on EVP John Fry's presentation is based on the texts of slides released by the Office of the Executive Vice President. --Ed.

Penn's Ten-Year, $300 Million Plan for West Campus:

The Academic Framework by Michael Wachter

We are at a remarkable time in Penn's history. Penn and its students are helping to change the very landscape of undergraduate life at Penn. This is happening in an already world-class premier institution. Penn has twelve high-ranking schools on a compact campus, featuring an amazing array of outstanding teaching and research programs. Four of our 12 schools offer undergraduate degrees; three others organize majors and virtually all participate in undergraduate education.

Our sixth place U.S. News ranking this year is just one of many external markers, letting us know we have succeeded in improving an already exceptional educational experience here at Penn.

We also have numerous strictly academic indicators which demonstrate our steady improvement each year. This year, for example, the Class of 2002 is the most academically talented class we've ever admitted to Penn.

At a recent event, we were talking about how each Penn class is still better than the last. Following the discussion, one of our seniors remarked that he was very proud to be in the fourth best class Penn has ever had!

Penn is on a roll.

We need to build on this success and continue towards meeting the even more ambitious goals articulated by the Agenda for Excellence. We know that great universities have great undergraduate programs. Penn is certainly no exception.

If we are to advance further, however, additional improvements are needed. The College House System is at the very core of improving undergraduate life at Penn in the 21st Century.

The concept began with President Rodin's 1994 inaugural address, in which she articulated a vision for the future of undergraduate education at Penn. This vision included the creation of an intellectually dynamic and varied living experience. Our College Houses are already a part of the Penn landscape and well on their way to making President Rodin's vision a reality.

The most dramatic and gratifying aspect of our new College House System: Our students are already embracing it. It is already an accepted part of the Penn culture.

Much of the strategic thinking you'll hear today has two very real, concrete goals behind it.

First, we want to be able to work within these 12 new learning communities to offer our students the very best academic environment they can experience among our Ivy peers. As distributed learning transforms our living environment, the College Houses will increasingly be the place where our students will do a great deal of their learning. Our Wheel programs, for example, are well underway in our College Houses, providing many academic support services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including computing, math, writing and library research. Others are on the way. We expect to see the schools expand upon and explore new ways of advising through our College Houses.

But our College Houses are not just places to study and do academic work. They also provide increased leadership opportunities for our students. Penn admits an undergraduate class of scholar-leaders. We must give them the chance to live up to their full potential. The College House communities will help us do just that. This fall, for example, College House residents have been busy creating an expanded social programming schedule in our 12 houses. Other College House residents run the Wheel, serve on House Councils, act as House Managers and provide computing support to their peers as Information Technology Advisors. The potential for leadership development has never been so great.

The College Houses are also, of course, dwellings where our students will build life-long friendships and have a terrific time doing so.

Finally, the college houses are multi-generational, allowing our undergraduates the chance to mix with graduate students as well as faculty masters and fellows.

This multi-generational living gives mentoring, teaching and advising relationships the chance to grow. In short, our 12 new College Houses are already 12 new learning and living communities.

But if we want these communities to flourish and expand, we must renovate and rehabilitate our worn-out residential buildings and we must add capacity.

Our physical structures must match our programming excellence and provide diverse, attractive living spaces for our students to study and socialize. We want to see more students living on campus taking advantage of our improved academic services. To meet that goal, we will need to build more capacity.

We welcome the chance today to discuss with you some of our thoughts on how we might achieve that end.

This is truly a time to celebrate Penn's successes and to build on them for the future.

To help shape that future, I am pleased to introduce History of Art Professor David Brownlee, who as most of you know, is one of the prime forces behind our new College House System.

In addition to his role as Faculty Master of Harnwell College House, which David affectionately refers to as one of the "tall" College Houses, he is also the Director of the Office of College Houses and Academic Services.

[College House System Director David Brownlee described some of the progress made over the summer to get the houses ready for the debut of the comprehensive college house system. Construction and renovations included the addition of three more computer labs; another dining hall; three more exercise facilities; 33 efficiency apartments for Graduate Associates; and nine more Senior Faculty/Administrative apartments.

["In addition to these physical improvements," Dr. Brownlee noted, "Penn's 1998 College Houses are delivering greatly enhanced academic support services. Known as the 'Wheel' project, many of these services are delivered to students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Wheel services include additional advising and academic support in writing, mathematics, library research and computing. Other wheel programs are under consideration including a brand-new pilot 'spoke' in career services.

["Penn's College House residents have also been actively engaged in creating and implementing 'Penn P.M.' programs, which describes expanded nonalcoholic social programming in residence, particularly on weekend nights."]

Construction Goals and Timetables in Hamilton Village

Executive Vice President John Fry presesented three central goals for the projects totalling $300 million in estimated cost:

  • To support Penn's College House efforts by providing high quality undergraduate residence and dining halls suitable for 21st Century living and learning;
  • To respond to student demand for high quality, academically supportive, and consumer satisfying on-campus housing by renovating all existing undergraduate housing and dining facilities and constructing 1000 new beds within the College Houses;
  • To reestablish "Superblock," now renamed Hamilton Village, as a functional and attractive part of Penn's physical environment through strategic placement of additions to the College Houses in concert with the redevelopment efforts planned for 40th Street.

With these goals in mind, the University will sequence renovations and construction to optimize the anticipated growth of the College House System; finance the project(s) with minimal impact on academic resources, and further advance Penn's Agenda for Excellence goals by coordinating with appropriate University City initiatives. The preliminary timetable:
 Planning Competition for Hamilton Village  Winter 1999
 Construction of New Housing (1000 beds)  1999-2001
 Quadrangle Renovated (summers only)  1999-2001
 High Rise College Houses Renovated (one per year shut down)  2001-2004
 Low-rise College Houses Renovated  2004-2005
 Hill and Kings Court/English Renovated  2006-2007
 Hill College House Kitchen, Servery, Dining Area  Summer 1999
 Class of 1920 Commons Renovated (includes enclosing west side patio)  2000-2001
 Stouffer College House and Dining (demolition of existing facility and construction of new dining commons)  2001-2003
 Kings Court/English College House Renovated  2006-2007

Among the options for financing these projects will be development efforts; reassignment of existing debt repayments; various revenues (including those of housing and dining operations, Sheraton Hotel operations, and a summer conference and guest housing program); and a contribution by Trammell Crow based on the outsourcing agreement announced last year.

Hamilton Square: The 40th Street Site

This project will offer entertainment and retail choices in proximity to Hamilton Village for students, faculty, and staff, as well as the neighboring community, and will introduce additional amenities in the neighborhood to support the 40th Street development effort to vitalize and strengthen the western edge of the campus.

Arts House Cinema: A lease has been executed with Sundance Cinemas to operate the theater, which will have eight screens in over 50,000 square feet of space, also housing a cafe, film and literature merchandise, and facilities for community use.

Specialty Food Market: The market of about 30,000 square feet will have an external design that is "street friendly." The internal design and layout will include produce, baker, prepared foods, flowers, and cafe. A letter of intent has been executed with an experienced operator to run the market.

Parking Garage: A 700- to 800-car garage will be built above the food market.

Surrounding Redevelopment: 3,300 square feet on first floor of 4015 Walnut will be renovated, and 46,000 square feet of current retail and office space adjacent to the theater will be upgraded.

Project planning is underway, with the architectural firm of Wood & Zapata selected to lead the design effort. Construction will begin in early 1999 and completion is scheduled for Spring 2000. The costs of the cinema, specialty food market, and surrounding redevelopment will total $18.9 million. This will be funded through $5.1 million in equity and $13.8 million in non-recourse debt. The cost of the garage--another $15.4 million--will be funded through internal and tax-exempt funds.

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 12, November 17, 1998