Early Work Begins on South Campus Transformation

Plans to change the face of Manhattan College’s south campus are beginning to materialize.

Work in Leo Engineering Building has already begun – including the installation of conduits that will house a new fire alarm system and the addition of office space on the third and first floors. A large section of the parking lot – straddling Tibbett Avenue along the west side of the lot – has been closed off to make way for the demolition of the building’s chimney.

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Construction located in the parking lot of the Leo Engineering Building. This is the first phase of the campus expansion that will be taking place over the next few years. STEPHEN ZUBRYCKY / THE QUADRANGLE

Vice President of Facilities Andrew Ryan estimated that work on the chimney would begin by the end of this week.

“[The] contract is awarded. [We are] waiting on the permit,” Ryan said last week. “Once we get started on it, that should go pretty quickly.”

The chimney currently stands in the way of what will be billed as the Higgins Engineering & Science Center, named for Patricia and Cornelius Higgins ’62.

Slated to open in 2020, the new Higgins center will be dedicated exclusively to laboratory space, and will house labs for the biology, chemistry, physics, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering departments.

Currently, the college is working through the preconstruction phase of the project with Pavarini Northeast Construction. According to previous reporting from The Quadrangle, Pavarini was the general contractor for several other of the college’s large construction ventures, including the Broadway Garage, Lee Hall and Kelly Commons.

Right now, the college remains in the permitting process, and is expecting to break ground on Higgins in March, which will result in the complete and permanent closure of the Leo parking lot.

With construction just weeks away, Leo Engineering Building is bracing for the inevitable disruptions that come with construction, and making way for some permanent changes to the layout.

New offices are being added to the first and third floors of Leo, to provide space for displaced faculty members of the civil and environmental engineering department. The department’s present third floor suite, which extends nearly the full length of Leo’s southern face, will be cut in half to accommodate the new walkway between Leo and Higgins.

“That’s a real checker game. I guess it’s about 10 or 11 spaces in that area that needed to get cleared out,” Ryan said. “And in order to do that we have a real checker game going on.”

“We worked with Andy Ryan to develop this plan of where our offices would be and where our new offices would be,” said Robert R. Sharp, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“We’re having a say, which I think is important,” Sharp added.

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Slated to open in 2020, the new Higgins center will be dedicated exclusively to laboratory space. STEPHEN ZUBRYCKY/ THE QUADRANGLE

The college’s plans remain fluid, with the initial idea for an underground parking structure beneath Higgins being eliminated.

In addition, the reconstruction of Leo’s western façade has been shifted out of the first round of work to be done on south campus.

“[The new facade is] still in the plan, but not at this stage,” Tim Ward, Dean of the School Engineering, said.

“The money for the façade and the northwest corner, we think, would be more effectively spent to start doing some of the internal remodeling of Leo,” Ward said.

The internal remodeling Ward mentioned includes the renovations of numerous labs on the first floor – including the materials, concrete and hydraulic labs – as well chemical engineering labs on the fourth floor.

According to Ward, those renovations are scheduled for this summer.

But the plan remains a long term one. Ward estimates that all the elements of the college’s master plan for south campus will not come to fruition until about 2025.

These include, not only the Higgins center, but a new residence hall and green space near the present site of the Robert A. Mahan Physical Plant Complex, and more renovations to spaces in Leo and the adjacent Research and Learning Center.

According to Ryan, Manhattan College is currently pursuing a change to the zoning regulations or a zoning variance to construct a new residence hall near Mahan.

While earlier plans called for the elimination of Mahan, the former physical plant headquarters is finding its niche on south campus.

“We’re going to have some space in [Mahan] for an asphalt lab,” Ward said, also adding that Mahan will soon house locker rooms for athletes who use nearby Gaelic Park.

The college is also awaiting permits to demolish smaller buildings on the lot, including the former Riverdale Auto Body Shop.

“We are in the very early stages of demolishing the buildings that we own except for the Physical Plant,” Ryan said. “That process takes almost six months just to get the permits.”

The residence hall will be further down the road as Manhattan makes the Higgins Center its chief priority. Ryan estimated that the processing time for the zoning change or variance the college would need is about one or two years.