Summer may be over, but the sights and sounds of the season, including orange roadblocks, yellow caution tape and the noises of construction, continue on campus and surrounding streets.

Paul Wong
Of the numerous construction projects across campus none are more visible than the future site of the Life Sciences Institute at the corner of Huron Street and Washtenaw Avenue. Many major campus buildings are closed or have recently undergone renovation.

With more than 400 campus construction projects under way, University officials are attempting to assess which areas will experience the most congestion.

Long-term projects such as the closure of Rackham Auditorium and additions to Mason and Haven Halls have substantially rerouted student traffic.

“Instead of doing all this at once they should have done this over years,” said LSA sophomore Matt Viaches. “Everything is a mess right now.”

As the University tries to refurbish some of its most prominent buildings for future generations of students, freshmen are finding they”re not the only ones trying to learn their way around campus.

“There”s no way the projects can be totally non-disruptive to make the kinds of changes, improvements and enhancements that everyone in the community wants them to be,” said Facilities and Operations spokeswoman Diane Brown.

“The people planning the projects have a lot of things to balance and hope to dissipate as much of the congestion as possible.”

The city of Ann Arbor offered “rewards” to finish its summer construction projects such as reconstructing Packard Street before the fall influx of students.

“We gave the contractors an incentive,” said city project engineer Alison Ferree.

“They got a certain amount of money for early days if not, they paid the city for days past the finish date.”

Smaller, on-campus projects, like lab renovations and roof projects also took place, and construction on the Palmer Drive Commons Building began. City officials anticipate blocking Palmer Drive as construction continues in the area.

Construction officials said the Mason/Haven Hall project, which includes an eight-story addition, is on schedule for a November 2002 completion.

The Rackham building will remain closed for two years, forcing the University to lease offices elsewhere.

Renovations also took place over the summer in East Quad Residence Hall and the Modern Languages Building and continue in West Hall. The next major project begins in the spring with the closure of Hill Auditorium.

“We”re doing a lot of infrastructure work,” Brown said.

“It”s not the aesthetic stuff and the sexy stuff. It”s things like fire and sprinkler systems.”

The Hill project will reduce the number of seats from 4,200 to 3,650 and cost $33.5 million dollars but promises to positively affect the acoustic integrity of the building, Brown said.

“If you listen to some acoustic experts, they will question that the building is acoustically sound,” she said.

“If anything, we”re going to enhance the acoustics by creating more of a sound barrier between the lobby and the auditorium.”

The School of Music and University Musical Society are still looking as far away as Detroit for alternate venues for their events that normally take place at Hill.

“A project like this might typically last a couple of years in a normal environment,” Brown said. “In this case, we”re asking people to tighten up to an 18-month window. It”s a large consideration because performers are scrambling for alternative venues.”

The city also plans to continue their construction push with the restoration of two-way streets downtown and the State Street Area Project.

“We”re trying to figure out how we”re going to phase in the construction,” said Sue Polley, Downtown Development Authority executive director. The project, which is slated to begin in the spring, involves the installation of new sidewalks, trees and lights on North University Avenue and State, William, Washington and Thompson streets.

In addition, all one-way streets in that area will be reopened to two-way traffic.

Polley said the city hopes to make the area more pedestrian-friendly by the completion of the project in 2003.

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