Completed Physical Sciences Building, Rebuilt Horse Barn Among New Sights for Fall Semester

Physical Sciences Building
Physical Sciences Building

The spectacular $101 million Physical Science Building (PSB) highlights the list of major construction projects that have significantly advanced or been completed since the end of the spring semester – and have altered the look of campus.

Completed after three years of construction, the PSB, which incorporates the former West Experiment Station (WES), is alive with physics and chemistry faculty completing their move-in.

The former campus horse barn is reborn just north of the main campus, where it draws attention to the student farmers who are already processing this year’s vegetable crop.

Expansion of the Isenberg School of Management with its dramatic cascading façade is on schedule for a spring semester opening, and work is just underway on the new Worcester Dining Commons.

Not yet visible but in design are the renovation of the Student Union and a number of improvements to athletics facilities.

Here’s an overview of the changes.

Physical Sciences Building

Nine chemists, 11 physicists and their staffs, equipment and experiments are moving into the 95,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building, which incorporates the 12,300-square-foot reconstructed West Experiment Station. PSB provides offices, specialized laboratories and 130 lab benches in a layout that can be reconfigured many times during the life of the building. Among other fields, PSB supports scientific discovery in material science, condensed matter and nuclear physics and organic chemistry.

The main building has three levels, with the basement accommodating physics laboratories with high bay capacity. Some of these labs have specialized features, such as foundations that are isolated from vibration or pits for storing cryogenic materials. The top two levels hold the lab benches, chemistry offices, lab support and collaborative spaces. Physics department offices are in the WES portion of the structure.

A unique “energy awareness system” is part of the strategy to balance laboratory ventilation for 92 chemical fume hoods.

The main part of the building, which reaches North Pleasant Street just south of the Lederle Graduate Research Center, owes its modern appearance to an exterior of gray Roman brick and vertical curtainwall, which contrasts with the southwest end of the building, which presents the brick façade of the former West Experiment Station.

WES, which opened in 1887 as the first agricultural experiment station at a land grant college, had become structurally unsound by 2015, so it was deconstructed, moved 20 feet south and 65 west and its original brick-and-stone façade reassembled around a new steel skeleton. The structure is connected to the main part of the building at basement and street level.

PSB is also connected to Goessmann Laboratory by a second-floor walkway and to Goessmann and the Graduate Research Center by tunnels.

The university is targeting LEED Gold environmental performance certification for the building.

A formal opening of the building is expected in late fall.

Horse Barn

The former campus horse barn, built in 1894 on Grinnell Way and unused for years, has been rebuilt and relocated and is now part of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture’s Agricultural Learning Center just north of campus.

Last used by the UMass Amherst Police Department for its mounted patrol more than a decade ago, the iconic Queen Anne style structure was the last barn on the main campus.

In its new life, the barn supports student agricultural activities and houses industry-standard equipment for washing and packing the approximately 75,000 pounds of vegetables produced by student farmers each year.

The equipment is already operating for the year’s main harvest.

The North Pleasant Street location is part of university property at the former Wysocki Farm.

The building remains a true barn, with limited utilities, although it does have heated, handicapped-accessible bathrooms.

It features “eyebrow” windows and a metal roof, as the original did. Horse stalls relocated from the old barn add a bit of history while providing work space and storage.

Although only a limited amount of the original barn could be reused, architectural details have been faithfully reproduced in doors and windows. The paint color, chosen after an analysis of paint chips on the old building, is as close to the original and science and history can make it.

Several original features, such as a hay trolley system and an oat grinding machine, have been salvaged and turned over to Preserve UMass, a private advocacy group.

A formal opening is planned later in the year.

Isenberg School of Management

The 70,000-square-foot Isenberg School of Management (ISOM) Business Innovation Hub addition, with its eye-catching copper-clad exterior, is on schedule for occupancy for the spring 2019 semester. Construction will be completed in December, with move-in scheduled over winter break.

The addition, which includes a simulated trading floor, wraps around the north and northeast ends of ISOM and is organized on either side of a multi-story atrium to be used for large, all-university gatherings and special functions such as business symposia.

The new space provides for faculty growth, career-center recruiting, team-based learning and advising.

Its flexible design will accommodate entrepreneur-in-residence programs and experiential learning spaces for students and includes a 5,000-square-foot Student Commons that will serve both as learning commons and event center.

The new addition accompanies renovation of select spaces in the original 1964 building and the 2002 addition named for Harold Alfond.

 Worcester Dining Commons

Construction is just underway on a new 87,000-square-foot Worcester Dining Commons on the former site of parking lot 63, between the current dining commons and North Pleasant Street. The new building is scheduled to be completed and in operation for the fall term of 2020.

The building will include a ground-floor retail food café and a commercial bakery, as well as support offices for Auxiliary Enterprises. 

It will also be home to a “neighborhood center” of student spaces, with lounges, meeting rooms, a fitness center, a contemplative space and music practice rooms. 

The university is targeting LEED Gold environmental performance for the building.

The construction will preserve East Experiment Station, currently occupied by University of Massachusetts Press.

The existing Worcester DC will remain in operation throughout the construction period and will be demolished beginning in summer 2020.

Student Union

Design is underway for the renovation of the Student Union, with work to begin in January. The building will be closed until completion in fall 2020.

The building has not been renovated since it opened in 1957, when there were 4,800 students enrolled on campus. Today, the Student Union serves nearly 30,000 students and more than 200 registered student organizations. It is also home to student businesses and the Center for Student Governance.

During construction, the building’s offices for student organizations and other campus services will be relocated.

Proposed Student Union renovations include:

  • A highly active “Main Street” style promenade with concentrated retail, student services and dining options
  • A consolidated media center serving the Daily Collegian, UVC-TV19 and WMUA that is positioned so activity is visible from the Main Street
  • A new entry and outdoor plaza with a streamlined connection to the Lincoln Campus Center
  • Expanded student business space
  • New meeting, activity and assembly space
  • The ballroom and Cape Cod Lounge will be repurposed into new, divisible, multipurpose areas for medium-sized assembly and function space
  • Updated mechanical and electrical systems

The renovation is to be funded by a temporary student fee increase and by a university capital expenditure.

McGuirk Alumni Stadium

Following a $5.58 million gift commitment by alumnus and UMass Amherst supporter Marty Jacobson in June, the Athletics Department announced experiential improvements to McGuirk Alumni Stadium for the university community, current and future student-athletes and fans alike.

The Jacobson gift provides the support necessary to design and construct a seasonal air-supported indoor structure, sometimes called a “bubble,” at the stadium and will also contribute to a high-definition scoreboard at the stadium, among other planned fan experience facility improvements.

The air-supported structure will benefit all UMass Amherst student-athletes and will provide an indoor training space during the winter months when outdoor facilities are unavailable. The facility will also be available to the larger university community for selected special events.

Construction will begin at the conclusion of the 2018 football season, and a formal timeline for completion will be established as the final scope for all the improvements within the project are determined. 

In honor of the gift, UMass Amherst named the football team facility the “Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center.”

The 1968 graduate of the university, along with his brother Richard, previously provided $2.5 million for improvements to McGuirk Alumni Stadium, which funded the construction of the Martin and Richard Jacobson Press and Skybox Complex.

Hills House Site

Hills House, the recently emptied four-story administrative building at Thatcher Road and North Pleasant Street, was razed earlier this year and will be replaced by a parking area.

Built in 1960 as a dormitory, the building was most recently used as office space for the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, landscape architecture and regional planning and the College of Education.

Parking lot construction is scheduled to begin in a few weeks with completion by late fall.