Construction Starts Soon on Northwest Science Quad; Some Related Parking Changes Postponed

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The new Northwest Science Quadrant, a cornerstone of the Next Generation Connecticut program and critical piece of UConn’s plans to significantly boost STEM research and education, is scheduled to begin construction in coming months.

To prepare for the project, the University closed some parking areas on the property last fall — notably the entirety of Lot L and the upper section of Lot X — while reassigning some permit holders elsewhere and opening the 700-space Lot K on Discovery Drive.

The University had expected to close Lot N (formerly known as Lot 9) and Lot X in their entirety of this month, but recent developments have made it possible for them to remain open to parking throughout the spring 2020 semester until after Commencement.

Bids are expected to be received and reviewed in coming months for construction of the Northwest Science Quadrant’s new Science 1 Building and a Supplemental Utility Plant (SUP), with the plant set to be completed in fall 2021 and Science 1 expected to open in fall 2022.

Although the anticipated parking lot closures are being postponed until after the spring semester ends, the University will need to close King Hill Road to through traffic in April to mobilize construction of the SUP.

The exact date has yet to be determined, but the University will erect electronic messaging signs near King Hill Road starting in March to notify drivers of the impending change.

Once that closure occurs, drivers will no longer be able to use the road as a shortcut between North Eagleville and Hillside roads, since the western half connecting to North Eagleville will end at the entrance to the SUP construction site.

The eastern half of King Hill Road will still connect to Hillside Road, allowing drivers to reach the Lodewick Visitors Center, Ted’s Restaurant & Bar, and the former Huskies Bar property.

However, it will end at a cul de sac where drivers will turn around and go back out on Hillside Road. Wings Over Storrs will still be accessible from North Eagleville Road near its intersection with the western half of King Hill Road.

Eventually, King Hill Road will also be improved with sidewalks, lighting and other features that it currently lacks. Surface parking for about 175 spaces will also be provided near the Science 1 Building when it opens.

UConn’s office of University Planning, Design and Construction (UPDC) plans to hold a public Town Hall meeting in March to explain all facets of the Northwest Science Quad project, including the buildings being built and the impacts on traffic and other operations. The date will be widely publicized when it has been set.

The Science 1 Building is one of the largest projects in the Next Generation Connecticut initiative, which was announced in 2013 to significantly expand UConn’s educational and research work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

The building will be one of UConn’s largest and most technologically advanced facilities when it opens. Its 198,000 square feet will house research, teaching and core laboratories; a new 240-seat active-learning room designed to engage students more dynamically than traditional lecture halls; and faculty offices, public spaces including a new cafe, administrative support offices and informal gathering spaces.

It also includes a “clean room,” which is a space designed to support specialized scientific research in a tightly controlled environment where contamination is minimized to protect the work by filtering airborne particles such as dust or other particulates from within the room.

The building and the nearby Gant Science Complex will be served by the new Supplemental Utility Plant (SUP), which will provide heat, electricity, emergency power and cooling, and will connect via underground infrastructure to the Central Utility Plant on Glenbrook Road. The SUP project also includes electrical upgrades to significantly improve the campus electrical distribution system.

Work has been under way in recent years to extend the infrastructure by extending the utility tunnels under Auditorium Road adjacent to the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts.

Eventually, construction and detours will be necessary at the intersection of Hillside Road and Alumni Drive when crews need to dig there to extend the underground infrastructure, likely starting in late 2020 or early 2021.

The University will provide updates on that work later this year, including the anticipated schedule, traffic pattern changes and effects on events and University operations.

The Northwest Science Quadrant will also include a new space – characterized as the woodland corridor in the University’s 2015 Campus Master Plan — running east to west in the midst of the quad. That will provide an attractive, landscaped area to help UConn meet environmental goals for stormwater management and natural habitats for plants and wildlife.

At the same time that work is about to ramp up on the Northwest Science Quad, the University is continuing its work on renovations and modernization of the Gant Science Complex, which is also part of the Next Generation Connecticut initiative to expand research and academic opportunities in STEM fields at UConn.

The first phase in the building’s south wing was recently completed, with the second phase anticipated to finish in spring 2021 and the third and final phase ending in spring 2024.