When students return for classes next fall, one of the most traversed spaces on campus will have a brand new look. Starting the day after Commencement, May 22, the University will begin renovating O’Neill Plaza to transform the area into a green space, with trees and grass replacing the existing concrete.
Though often regarded as one of the least aesthetically pleasing areas on campus, the changes to the plaza will create a new green space following the destruction of the Dustbowl last fall.
“This will serve to ‘soften’ the look of the plaza in front of O’Neill,” said Mary Nardone, associate vice president for capital projects. “But at the same time, the lawn is designed to still be able to handle-with perhaps some minor adaptations-the regular slate of events and activities taking place there.”
The main diagonal path across the plaza, from the library to the Quad, will remain concrete, with grass on each side and trees ringing the edges of the plaza. The plaza will still be available for large-scale activities, like the Mass of the Holy Spirit each fall, as well as events put on by various student organizations. Besides the addition of trees and grass, the plaza will be regraded so that the lowest level of the plaza will be even with the entrance to O’Neill Library, removing the stairs in front of the library.
The project will be completed by the fall semester, according to Facilities Management, but the plaza will remain largely closed during the summer months. Pedestrians will have to circumnavigate the plaza during the summer when traveling from Lower Campus towards the Quad and Upper. The first few weeks of the project in early June will be the most intensive. Workers will remove large amounts of concrete and brick on the plaza and begin regrading the area.
“Admittedly, there will be a disruption in that the plaza has such a high volume of traffic,” Nardone said. “But it will just be for the summer.”
According to a release by the Office of News and Public Affairs, “the new-look plaza is part of a series of related projects in the University’s Master Plan that will create an integrated combination of architecture and green space in the Middle Campus area.” Other projects included in the plan are the construction of Stokes Hall and its surrounding green space, as well as a planned renovation of the existing Quad between Devlin, Fulton, Lyons, and Gasson.
“These all are intrinsically important in and of themselves,” Nardone said, “and at the same time, the projects will help make for a unifying vision of Boston College, one that people walking between Stokes and O’Neill will be able to appreciate.”
In addition to the regrading and addition of grass, the renovated O’Neill Plaza will feature 20-foot tulip trees along the front of the library and 14-foot flowering cherry trees closer to Gasson Hall.
“This will be a remarkable ‘before and after,’ and in such a short time,” said Gina Bellavia associate director for campus grounds.
Architecture for the project was contracted to Stephen Stimson Associates, the same firm responsible for the Stokes Hall project, while Thomas Runyon, head of the recent Gasson Hall renovation, will be Boston College’s project manager.