Work to move above ground utilities underground and repave the road in Fraternity Circle begins this week. |Photo by Greg Clark.
Preliminary stages of a multiphase, a $5 million project that will improve Fraternity Circle’s infrastructure will begin this week, and the project will be fully underway starting May 20, 2019.
The project has two phases. The first phase will begin this week, and a majority of the work will be completed between May 20, 2019 and Aug. 20, 2019. By Aug. 20, the first phase must be substantially complete, according to Kenneth Burke, the assistant director of Capital Projects and the project manager.
Burke said the first phase of the project includes several factors. All above ground utilities, such as electrical wires, will be put underground. Additionally, Fraternity Circle will be repaved and part of the roadway will be straightened.
A new waterline is going to be installed throughout the area, as well as a new fiber optic network that will connect to each house. Sidewalks and lighting will also be added to Fraternity Circle.
“It’s a lot of work,” Burke said. “We have to tie all of the houses back to the utilities that we end up building. All those overhead wires, all the electrical, telecommunications, that’s all going to get buried underground and tied into the house underground now.”
Burke also said a cul-de-sac will be built on Fraternity Circle behind the Alpha Delta Pi sorority house. Two fraternity houses will be built on the cul-de-sac. According to Stephen Simo, the assistant dean of students, one house will be for Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the other will be for Phi Kappa Psi.
As part of the renovations, the stretch of roadway that runs alongside Phi Sigma Sigma and Alpha Delta Pi on one side, and Theta Chi, Zeta Tau Alpha and Hillel on the other side, will permanently be closed to pedestrian vehicles. The section of roadway will be used for emergency access only.
Burke explained that with this construction, approximately 100 parking spaces in Fraternity Circle will be taken away as a result of the renovations.
Except for the contractors, no one will be allowed to be in the houses on Fraternity Circle during the construction for safety reasons. Because of this, maintenance that is typically done during the summer in fraternity and sorority houses will be put on hold.
“There will be a little bit of catch up with the home maintenance, such as the painting [and] the carpets,” Simo said. “All of the cosmetics and general maintenance that you would try to get done in a summer, we’re going to be a year or two behind with that but then once the [Fraternity] Circle [construction] is all done they’ll be able to catch up quickly.”
Although most of the utility work will be done over the summer, Burke said some work will need to be finished in the fall.
“It is very likely that there will be lingering work that goes on into the fall, but you will have the drainage done, you’ll have sidewalk and curbing, you’ll probably have your base course of asphalt, maybe not the finished course of asphalt,” Burke said. “Essentially, the whole roadway and sidewalk infrastructure will be ready for the fall semester.”
Burke said that once students move back into the Fraternity Circle area at the end of August or the beginning of September, the contractor will not be permitted to do roadwork or work on the sidewalks.
“Whatever work isn’t done by August 20 of 2019, they basically have to change their operations, they have to get off the street network, they have to get off the sidewalks, and they have to work very, very carefully in an area where there’s an active student population,” he said.
Simo said the renovations are needed because of the age and layout of Fraternity Circle’s current infrastructure.
“The infrastructure is just older and needs an upgrade,” Simo said. “With that also is the design of Fraternity Circle. It was just sort of built as it went, without a community design.”
Simo said that by adding in walkways and outdoor common spaces, the renovations will allow for more of a sense of community in Fraternity Circle. He said that when the architect was making their design for Fraternity Circle, they kept the core Greek Life values in mind.
“We were really looking at the community aspect,” Simo said. “Greek Life is a big community, and we wanted to get the Fraternity Circle design to reflect that.”
With the new design, Burke expects the Fraternity Circle area to look much different. He said one of the goals of the project is to give the area more of a residential aesthetic.
“It’s an opportunity to kind of reinvent the Fraternity Circle area with existing houses,” Burke said. “It’s going to look and feel like a new subdivision with the exception that all of the houses are staying in place.”
The second phase of the project, which will be completed next summer and fall, includes the beautification of the Fraternity Circle area. This will include adding walkways between fraternity and sorority houses, adding gathering areas between the houses and planting trees.
Burke said the contractor for the project is Manafort Brothers. The company has worked on other projects at the University of Rhode Island in the past.