Student Center expansion update: A conversation with Rowan’s Director of Planning & Design Alexis Breining


On Sept. 15, 2022, The Whit published an article claiming that construction underway at the Chamberlin Student Center planned to be open by the Fall 2023 semester.

By the looks of the site today, it probably wouldn’t be wrong to assume that the expansion will not be complete by the time students leave for the winter holiday. 

The Student Center Expansion is now estimated to be completed by the end of the spring semester. Currently, the steel structure and the shell of the building are all that stand around the ungraded land.

But what derailed the process a bit behind schedule?

“That’s what you get when you decide to build an expansion in the heart of campus and our campus is turning 100 this year so there’s a lot of stuff in the ground and as you start to dig into the ground, you hit that stuff,” said the Rowan Director of Planning & Design Services, Alexis Breining, “All those roadblocks are behind us and we anticipate the building to be complete this spring.”

Some of those roadblocks were unforeseen objects within the ground that the University wasn’t aware of before digging. Contractors discovered some old infrastructure that wasn’t documented which explains why the university wasn’t privy to that information. They also found some “surprise cyber IT lines.” 

Although these problems set back the original completion date, it didn’t affect the $30 million budget.

“When you open up the ground and you see something that’s failing, you obviously want to fix it, but you are limited to what the project has budgeted. So then it comes down to some creative solutions… it comes down to a lot of smart people that have a lot of experience in building these structures,” said Breining 

One creative solution that the team came up with, for example, was refurbishing the existing steam vault. When contractors came across the vault, it was evident that it wasn’t in pristine condition. But instead of spending another million dollars on a brand new one, they brought the current one up to standard and added thicker pipes to make sure that even if it’s not the best solution, the pipes will be strong, according to Breining.  

“Because of these creative solutions, we are staying solidly within our budget.”

Staying within the budget dissolves any worries that the delay with have any correlation with fewer amenities than originally planned. That’s not the case. 

“Whether the university is going to give permission to use the building depends on when we hit targets. If we are able to open up early spring, maybe we’ll get you guys in there before the end of the school year, but if it opens up later in spring, we might not really be prepared to open it up to students just yet.” 

There are details after opening a building that still need attention such as punch lists and documentation that need to be prepared by the contractors. Not to mention all of the aesthetic details such as a fireplace, a student art gallery, an outdoor study area, and another Saxbys, to name a few. There is a possibility that the Student Center could be kept under wraps until Fall of 2024.

“I’m really optimistic that we’ll get it done and get everyone in there by the end of the school year,” said Breinings. 

She stressed that they want to complete the landscaping, paving, and all the ancillary things that aren’t building-related before welcoming any students. 

“I would hate for everyone to get into the building and all of a sudden we find that we have an AV issue and now we’re trying to repair that with kids all around,” said Breining. “We want to make sure that everything is operating so that when we do open, we open successfully and we’re not dealing with trying to complete or fix things while the building is occupied because that opens up its own can of worms.”

In The Whit’s article from last Sept., it was reported that the expansion plan included an emphasis on a back walkway path being completed by this time. As plans have changed, the facilities team is mainly focused on getting the building up and running before focusing on the exterior.

Similarly, In May, The Whit also covered the Beam Signing Ceremony where students and faculty could come and sign their names on a metal beam that is being implemented in the new building. 

“The beam is going to be placed… where the existing student center meets the new expansion and you’re walking from the expansion to Saxbys. Our beam will be placed right up overhead and then of course surrounded by insulation and drywall.” 

“It is upsetting to me that it keeps getting delayed, I understand there’s frustration there… but it’s a gorgeous building, and anyone that gets the chance to be in there and get to work in there – it’ll all make it worth it,” said Michael Harrington, SGA Student Trustee.

“The building— it’s going to be absolutely beautiful. We don’t have a glass structure like this on campus so it’s going to be very unique. I’m excited for the students because there is a design of intention. There’s a 1970s brick building on the right, and then you’re going to leave that building and walk into this giant, light, airy, glass enclosure unlike anything our school has,” said Breining.

She also noted that not only will it be a unique design choice, but rather there is a bigger picture with the new development. 

 “It’s going to be so new and modern compared to the historic 1970s feel, but at the same time, it will work together. It’s a great merging of design and I’m excited for the students to feel that. I hope they look at it as an investment towards them and their careers here because it truly is,” said Breining.

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