There’s rarely a dull moment when it comes to construction at Sacred Heart University. “We’re busy,” said Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Michael Kinney. “We’re always busy.”
The latest addition to the Fairfield school’s construction agenda is a pair of new residence halls, approved last week by the town, whose construction will begin soon, according to Kinney. The two halls will consist of three stories — “with their high, gabled roofs it’ll look like four,” he said — and house a total of 248 students.
Construction will take about 15 months, according to Kinney. “If everything goes right, they’ll be ready in September-October of next year,” he said. “If something goes wrong, it’ll be November-December.”
The two halls will ultimately be joined by four others and accommodate north of 1,000 students.
Names of the two new halls have yet to be determined, but they will join such other recent additions as Pierre Toussaint Hall, a 69,000-square-foot, $21.6 million residential complex built as a “transformation” of Bennett Hall, which was completed in January, and Jorge Bergoglio Hall, named after Pope Francis, which was unveiled in 2016.
Work is also continuing at the 66-acre property at 3135 Easton Turnpike, the former General Electric headquarters that the university bought in 2016 for $31.5 million. All three of the buildings — two office structures and a hotel space — are being redeveloped to house SHU’s schools of education, hospitality, business and computing.
Some work on the first floor of the larger of the two office buildings, now known as The West Building, is nearing completion, Kinney said. Fourteen classrooms of various types “with computer science a specialty” are included, which Kinney said should be operational within two weeks.
Demolition is taking place on the other half of the first floor to provide a “maker space” for engineering students to sharing ideas, equipment, and know while working on a variety of projects.
The second floor, which Kinney said is close to being demolished, will feature seven classrooms for a number of disciplines as well as space for a work incubator. Kinney said both floors should be completed by June 2019.
Renovations to the second building, which will be used primarily by business students, will result in a new main entrance and two artificial intelligence labs, as well as yet-to-be determined other uses. He noted that Fairfield has yet to approve that work, though he said he did not foresee any objections.
Ultimately, some 900 students will be on the former GE campus, Kinney said.
Last month the school unveiled a $10 million, three-story building that will house WSHU, FM 91.1 and its Department of Public Safety. The latter will also operate as Fairfield’s secondary Emergency Operations Center.
Kinney said the school will approach the town with a proposal to build a 350-car parking facility for the new building within the next four weeks. The current SHU building, which staff and operations had outgrown “years ago” — its business operations had been in Trumbull — will be demolished in favor of a 43-car parking lot.
Work on SHU’s most visible project — the $21.8 million Bobby Valentine Athletic Center, announced in April — is also taking shape. The 87,000-square-foot, multisport facility, named for the former Major League Baseball player/manager and SHU’s executive director of athletics, is on schedule to be completed in August of next year, Kinney said.