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June 12, 2023

Wesleyan projects blend new with historic buildings to transform Middletown campus

RENDERING | CONTRIBUTED Wesleyan University’s new four-story, 190,000-square-foot science center — set to debut in spring 2026 — will have 39 research and support labs and nine teaching labs, 10 classrooms, a vivarium, greenhouse, outdoor spaces, and an advanced instrumentation lab.
Wesleyan University: By the numbers
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Most of the students are gone, but Wesleyan University’s Middletown campus will be a buzz this summer with aggressive work on a number of high-profile construction projects aimed at repurposing and revitalizing arts, science and humanities education spaces.

Three major building projects are in the works, including a new science center, expanded and integrated arts lab, and renovated Public Affairs Center.

The largest project is the $255 million construction of a 190,000-square-foot science building on Church Street set to open in spring 2026. Work on this project also includes renovating the historic Shanklin building and demolishing the Hall-Atwater lab, which was built in 1967.

According to the liberal arts university, which had 3,253 undergraduate and graduate students as of October 2022, the four-story science center will have 39 research and support labs and nine teaching labs, 10 classrooms, a vivarium, greenhouse, outdoor spaces, and an advanced instrumentation lab.

Andrew Tanaka

The new facility will “support the exceptional research of our faculty … and provide state-of-the-art classroom and laboratory space for our students,” said Andrew Tanaka, Wesleyan’s senior vice president, chief administrative officer and treasurer. “The new facility will also be much more energy efficient than the current building, which is in line with the institution’s commitment to sustainability.”

Designed by Payette Architects, the science center will use a third of the energy per square foot that Hall-Atwater currently takes up.

The 56-year-old Hall-Atwater lab will be abated and demolished to make way for a new 25-space parking lot with 12 electric vehicle charging stations along Lawn Avenue.

Also, a $56.4 million renovation of the Public Affairs Center and art gallery is nearing completion and should be fully occupied and operational by next spring, the school said.

Built in 1927, the original building was 48,000 square feet, with an 8,000-square-foot addition built in 1954.

New plans, designed by New Haven-based Newman Architects, call for replacing the 1954 portion with a 20,500-square-foot addition that will house faculty and staff from the College of Social Studies, including the history, economics, government and sociology departments.

This work will expand the building by nearly 20%, with a 75% increase in classroom space.

A new integrated arts lab will include renovating part of an existing 7,500-square-foot building at 56 Hamlin St., which dates back to the 1880s, and building a new 11,600-square-foot addition.

The completed lab will allow several different artistic disciplines to meld in a more modern and decompressed space, university officials said.

“Studio space for art projects has long been at a premium here, and the project at Hamlin will help greatly with giving our artists much-needed space to create their latest innovation,” Tanaka said.

The new lab will house two design and drawing studios, a movement dance studio, three offices and indoor/outdoor performance space for students and the public.

Boston-based Bruner/Cott Architects is designing the arts lab.

Bond funding totaling $130 million, along with donor funds are being used to finance the science and Public Affairs Center projects, and “we anticipate the Wesleyan Integrated Arts Lab (which has an undisclosed price tag) to be donor funded,” Tanaka said.

“All these exciting projects share the goal of stimulating the interaction among students and faculty that is so key to the Wesleyan experience,” Tanaka said.

Long-term planning

Wesleyan has been thinking about campus renovations for decades. It completed a conceptual plan for campus renewal in 1998, with a focus on adapting and reusing existing spaces and preserving historic buildings.

Master planner Adam Gross of Baltimore-based Ayers Saint Gross was hired in September 2002, to design projects, and since 2008, the university has worked on several of them, including new dormitories, academic halls and student spaces.

In December 2014, Wesleyan hired Sasaki Associates and Eastley + Partners to outline a 10- to 15-year campus development plan.

Now, those projects are seeing major headway, school officials said.

“The motivation for Wesleyan’s ongoing and upcoming facilities projects is primarily educational,” Tanaka said. “The renovation of our Public Affairs Center and creation of adjoining gallery space will energize teaching and learning in the social sciences and stimulate broader interaction with objects in our art collection.”

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