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Razing Palmer
University Implements 25 Year Plan

image courtesy of Jeff Lamb

The Board of Regents recently approved both the demolition of Palmer Hall and the construction of a new residence. The news, which was leaked to the general university community following the Board's decision, came as a shock to many, including the residents of Palmer. One resident described it as "like finding out someone you care about has cancer and will die in April, and there's nothing you can do about it."

"I found out on the street, and so did a lot of my girls," stated Vicki Lamb, President of the Palmer Hall Executive. "I don't blame the university, but it is really unfortunate the way it happened." Dan Gillis, Students, Administrative Council Vice-President of Student Life, expressed his excitement at the construction of the new residence, but reiterated Vicki Lamb's disappointment with the way the information was released. "I think it's positive for the university. I think the negative thing was the way it was communicated."

SAC President Loren McGinnis, who sits on the Board of Regents, expressed his concern with the way the announcement of the project was handled. "We emphasised that this was a missed opportunity to identify something that was positive. Instead it was a reactive process."

"As soon as the occupants are of Palmer move out we will begin construction," stated Jeff Lamb, Head of Facilities Management. "We want to do what we can over the summer to enclose the [new] building to make less disruption during the academic year," stated Jeff Lamb, adding, "we hope to have it done by the summer of 2004, and test it out with a few conferences."

The new building will be constructed roughly on the spot where Palmer stands today. It will form the south and west sides of what is to become a new quad; bounded by Harper, Windsor, and Jennings to the north and east. "Our main focus is to centre attention of the quad and make that an enjoyable area for students," stated Jeff Lamb. He also indicated that the building's position, facing the quad as opposed to the street as Palmer currently does, will direct student traffic toward the crosswalk between Avard-Dixon and Windsor, as well as allow the majority of trees between Palmer and Main Street to be saved.

According to Jeff Lamb, the new residence is being designed with the idea of congruity in mind. "Palmer doesn't fit that side of campus. You walk out of Harper and you see the back-end of a building." There are also plans to renovate Harper. "We want to carry to the rotunda design of Jennings." The new residence has been designed with circular features, containing lounge areas on each floor. A similar addition for Harper is being planned.The razing of Palmer Hall and the construction of the new residence is the first step in a long-term plan for Mount Allison. "The Board has articulated a number of building projects that have come up and been talked about," said McGinnis of the so-called Strategic Plan that was approved by the Board on Friday.

"Mount Allison currently has over forty million dollars in deferred building renovations," stated Jeff Lamb, citing the many buildings on campus that need repairs. Among the reasons for this is the rapid expansion, and accompanying building boom, that Mount Allison underwent in the 1960's. Buildings are deteriorating at the same pace and now all need repairs at the roughly the same time. The university hopes that, with the gradual pace of the strategic plan, repairs can be moved into a "rolling twenty-five year time frame," as opposed to all of the buildings needing repairs at once.

Among the changes outlined in the Strategic Plan are the conversion of Trueman/McConnell/Tweedie into the new University Centre, the current University Centre (the Stud) becoming the home of the Fine Arts and Drama departments, and the Gairdner Fine Arts Building housing the archives. New residences may also be built near the Fawcett Building on King Street.

The new residence, which will house between 160 and 170 students, will differ greatly from Palmer, or any other residence currently on campus, according to Pamela Paynter, Manager of Housing and Conference Servics. "The new residence will be all single occupancy rooms with en-suite baths shared with one other person. There will be a door adjoining the two bedrooms, locked from both sides. This door will be able to be opened between the rooms if requested. These rooms will be equipped with new, moveable furniture," stated Paynter. It has not been determined what gender of student the new residence will house.

Paynter identified several deficiencies with Palmer. "Palmer was built in 1936 and has not had a major refurbishment since. All systems in Palmer are in need of complete overhaul--electrical, heating and plumbing. The washrooms require reconfiguration to meet current trends and requests. A facelift, including painting, flooring, and draperies, is needed. The physical condition of the house requires complete renewal."

Although she recognizes that the new residence will be an improvement, Vicki Lamb expressed her concern at the loss of such an historic, and character-filled building. An "Academy Pavillion" will be constructed at the centre of the quad to honour the four Academy Buildings (including Palmer) which stood on the spot; an idea suggested by Dr. Paul Bogaard. It will be built using Sackville stone from Palmer.

Regardless, there is still a feeling of loss. "I came to this university because it was old and respected, and now they,re tearing down my beautiful building," stated Vicki Lamb, continuing, "but, I guess you have got to roll with the punches."

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