by Eileen McMorrow
Facilities for learning and living that keep students coming back for more may have had a significant impact at The College of New Jersey, ranked #29 for 2017 in Kiplinger’s 100 Best Values in Public College. That is two positions higher than 2016.
Additionally, TCNJ ranks #22 on the Best Values in Public Colleges for Out-of-State Students list, which cites the College for its strong freshman-retention rate (93 percent) and competitive admission rate (49 percent). Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to a number of measurable standards, including the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and the four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include low sticker prices, abundant financial aid and low average debt at graduation. The TCNJ Georgian Colonial-style campus covers 289 tree-lined acres between Princeton and Trenton.
Brower Student Center Renovation & Addition
Ask any student where they love to spend a lot of free time and meet friends during the day, and it’s usually the student center, the rec facilities, or the library. At TCNJ, the Brower Student Center has been home to almost every club since it opened in the 1970s—and it showed. Today, the Brower Student Center Renovation & Addition is considered by the campus architect and the director of construction as the most impressive project, as the College has worked to reimagine, revitalize and adapt its building architecture of many angles and planes to serve the high-tech students of 2017.
A new food court and event space are open, and the second floor conference spaces and bathrooms will be in use by the end of February. “Offices for administrative staff and the Dean’s Suite will complete in mid-June,” says Bill Rudeau, director of campus construction. “Student Affairs thought it was better to house the Dean of Students where the students actually gather and to foster contact, than with the executive administration offices in Green Hall,” says Lynda Rothermel, director of planning and campus architect.
Dedicated club spaces welcomed back students in September 2016. “We gave the clubs large rooms, connection points, and Wi-Fi, and they mostly moved in existing furniture,” Bill Rudeau, director of campus construction, explains. “The clubs have space to meet and store materials. As student clubs and organizations (there are 150 and counting) grow and change in terms of the members, there is space available,” adds Lynda Rothermel, director of planning and campus architect.
The Brower atrium is under renovation until early May, and the final phase of construction will be substantially completed this summer.
To complete the many ongoing projects, Campus Planning procures design firms and other services firms. “We have two assistant campus architects, an interior designer, and a campus engineer, and a project manager in-house to manage the design process,” says Rothermel. “We manage all the construction in-house with three project managers and two site superintendents,” Rudeau explains.
Both Rothermel and Rudeau once worked for the same architecture and construction firm. “We had a lot of repeat clients, knew our clients well, and felt responsible for their needs. Now we are the Owner, and it’s brought to another level,” says Rothermel. “We are on campus every day, and if something doesn’t work, we will hear about it.”
Further, before a building is turned over to Facilities & Administrative Services (FAS), Campus Construction (CC) owns the project for the first year to handle all warranty issues. “Throughout the process, FAS is involved,” says Rudeau. “They attend design meetings and review the drawings at the end of each design phase. FAS provides written comments to Campus Planning to share with the architectural/ engineer firm, and the firm responds in writing; it’s the same for IT.”
“It is helpful to have the FAS staff involved from the beginning,” says Rothermel. “They can tell us what is really important when there are budget constraints, letting us know what they absolutely have to have to operate the facilities properly. There are no surprises as Facilities is involved with design decisions.”
During construction, the TCNJ facilities team can walk through at any time, according to Rudeau. “They can express a concern during construction, then get a response before it is too late.”
Residence halls overhaul
The next major project will renovate Travers-Wolfe Hall, which houses over 1,000 first-year students, but doesn’t offer air conditioning. Travers-Wolfe Hall has two ten-story towers connected with a two-story link. Campus Planning, in conjunction with the Architect/Engineer selection committee, is in the process of screening design firms for the $87 million renovation and will announce the firm at a July board meeting. The two towers will be refurbished over two years, taking one tower off-line at a time. The design of the project begins this July; the first tower will be taken off-line in May 2020 and be occupied in fall 2021. The second tower will be taken off-line in May 2021 and will be occupied in fall 2022.
The Facilities Master Plan offers an eight-year outlook and includes $7 to $8 million in funding committed to asset renewal annually. “Renewal projects are not glamorous, but it is important that we take care of our older facilities,” says Rothermel. “Sometimes a renewal project replaces a roof, a mechanical unit, or underground utility infrastructure. The end result of these projects is not visible to most people, but is critical to keeping our facilities functional and operating.” Other renewal projects are more extensive and visible, such as renovating an older building. In the past there had not been enough recognition of the campus history. For alumni coming back to campus, it acknowledges their history (many alum are from the Trenton State College days) with TCNJ.
Norsworthy Hall, a three-story residence hall built in 1932, is one of the original buildings on campus. One of the smallest and most intimate residential communities, Norsworthy Hall was extensively renovated in 2014-15. The project included a new mechanical system, lighting, upgraded bathrooms, finishes, game room, and community lounges. “The preservation of Norsworthy keeps some history of the campus,” says Rothermel.
Other current projects include the STEM Building & Chemistry Addition, which have reached the 75 percent complete mark and will be occupied this summer. STEM Phase II/Science Complex and Biology renovations and interior alterations, a $3 million project, is in design and will start construction this summer. The Chiller Upgrade, Cooling Tower and Cogeneration Plant Controls projects are all nearing completion. STEM Phase II /Armstrong Renovation, an $8 million project, is in design.
Among the more than 40 buildings on campus are many recently constructed facilities, including the Biology Building (2000), the Social Sciences Building (2001), the Science Complex (2002), the Softball and Soccer field complex (2005), 150,000-sq.-ft. TCNJ Library (2005), Hausdoerffer and Phelps student apartments (2009), Art and Interactive Multi-Media Building (2010), and the School of Education (2012).
As a service organization, The TCNJ Office of Administration is involved with the life of the college, from the future planning to the long-term maintenance of the campus facilities and grounds. The Office of Campus Planning, with six full-time staff, manages the master planning (facilities, landscaping, accessibility, and asset renewal plans) and the design process for all capital and asset renewal projects. The Office of Campus Construction, with six full-time staff, manages the construction process for all capital and asset renewal projects. The Office of Facilities and Administrative Services, with 205 full-time staff, manages the operation and maintenance of all facilities and grounds.
The holistic approach to the College’s physical assets is a factor in TCNJ being named no. 17 in Princeton Review’s most beautiful campuses.