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WCSU begins conversion of Berkshire Hall to new Student Center

Architect's rendering of Berkshire Hall after its transformation.

DANBURY, Connecticut —Western Connecticut State University has recently begun preparation for construction on a new Student Center for its Midtown campus. The building, which is projected to be completed in mid-to-late 2023, will be located on the footprint of Berkshire Hall.

Pictured above – Architect’s rendering of Berkshire Hall after its transformation.

Plans for a new Midtown Student Center have been in the works for about eight years, according to Chief Facilities Officer and AVP for Campus Planning Luigi Marcone, who stated that the building will be a key aspect of the Facilities Master Plan. The initial plan also included the recent remodeling and renovation of Higgins Hall, also located on the university’s Midtown campus.

In January 2020, the university received a 50% design development presentation from Hartford-based architecture and interior design firm Tecton Architects, containing a set of conceptual designs for the upcoming construction. The presentation then was developed into construction documents during spring 2020, to subsequently be put out to bid for contractors and discern a more concrete budget. Marcone estimates the budget thus far to be over $24 million spent on an “investment in our future as a university.”

Toward the end of summer 2021, the first phase of the building’s conversion began.

“We are currently in a demolition phase,” said WCSU Planning Department Director Daniel Casinelli, “A lot of what’s going on inside of the building includes things being taken down; ceilings, doors, cabinets and everything else inside.” For the duration of the demolition and construction, fencing will be in place “to keep our community safe from walking into an active construction zone with equipment and people moving back and forth.”

Within the next month, a wrecking ball will arrive to demolish the front portion of the building, making way for the new glass box design facing the interior of the quad. The glass box will showcase the front interior of the building’s main level, containing the fireplace and coffee lounges, as well as the west lobby. Beyond the lobby and lounges will be the servery, which will become “the primary dining facility on-campus,” and the point of service.

“The intent (of the point of service) is to relocate everything that is food-related in the Student Center; giving an opportunity for late-night prepared meals to be picked up, maybe catering or something else that can be ordered in advance. Food service is still working through a lot of those points, but that is going to be the grab-and-go location,” said Marcone.

On the other side of the Student Center, the building will feature a new recreation center. Recreation offices will be located there, as well as locker rooms and shower facilities for all campus personnel. Aside from the other additions to the recreation center, the multi-purpose gymnasium located in Berkshire Hall will remain as is, with some minor renovations and alterations.

An additional athletic training facility is slated to be installed, where athletic trainers can go to help student athletes with injuries and recreation. The intent of the facility is for the Department of Health Promotion and Exercise Science to offer student internship opportunities as well. Recreation will also feature two studios for HPX classes and practices for cheerleading, dance, and other recreational purposes.

Things are likely to change between the concept design milestone and the final product, but these plans should provide a “good idea of how we envision the transformation,” explained Marcone. At present, the university aims to have the building ready for re-occupancy in spring or summer of 2023.

 

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.