Campus Construction Update, Aug. 14, 2014: Bringing down the houses

It was impressive, to say the least, as a Volvo power shovel knocked down four wooden houses at Bates the way someone like Campus Construction Update can knock down a stack of hotcakes.
 

The Aug. 4-5 demolition of the buildings at the corner of Campus and Central avenues marked a dramatic upshift in Bates’ Campus Life Project. The demo work followed a July 28 green light from the Lewiston Planning Board and a week of placing fencing around part of the project site and clearing trees and other greenery.

Site of the former 75 Campus Ave., once the home of Bates' religion and philosophy faculties, shown on Aug. 12, 2014. Lewiston Middle School is in the background. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Site of the former 75 Campus Ave., once the home of Bates’ religion and philosophy faculties, shown on Aug. 12, 2014. Lewiston Middle School is in the background. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

It was hard to look away as the power shovel operator from the Lewiston firm Gendron & Gendron, subcontracted to clear the Central-and-Campus corner, went after the houses at 100 and 106 Central and at 75 and 67 Campus. The Volvo’s business end was a pair of steel jaws that, fully opened, looked like a snake unhingeing its mouth to swallow an egg whole.

It was destruction, but not wanton. The operator’s tactical goal was to pack as much debris as possible into each building’s basement to simplify cleanup later. So the breaking-down of walls was punctuated by the tidy punching of wallboard, framing, moldings, door frames, etc., down through holes in the floor. Larger intact pieces were lifted away.

Replacing a provisional fence around the Campus Life Project site the week of Aug. 11, this fence will remain for the duration of the construction. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

Replacing a provisional fence around the Campus Life Project site the week of Aug. 11, this fence will remain for the duration of the construction. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

A man with a hose played water onto the action to suppress dust. There was still plenty of dust. Periodically the shovel driver would anchor the jaws in the ground, which was looking the worse for wear, and rotate the tracked undercarriage in place to get a different angle on the building. Each house took just a couple of hours to finish.

And next there were just the heaps of former house being scooped into a long open tractor-trailer. But the debris won’t go to waste: ReEnergy Lewiston, the local branch of a regional company that processes construction waste and biomass, will be able to make use of most of the materials — up to 70 percent, according to the company website.

At right, the power shovel gnaws at 75 Campus Ave. in this image from Aug. 5, 2014. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

At right, the power shovel gnaws at 75 Campus Ave. in this image from Aug. 5, 2014. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The point of it all was to make way for construction, months from now, of 65 Campus Ave., of the first of two student residences that will constitute the first phase of the Campus Life Project.

And we’re about to have déjà vu all over again as the action moves over one block to the stretch of Campus Avenue between Franklin and Bardwell streets. Again, the site work you’ll see first is fencing and tree removal, both already in progress at the Franklin-Bardwell block.

Workers erect fencing around the Campus Life Project site at Central and Campus avenues on July 29, 2014. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Workers erect fencing around the Campus Life Project site at Central and Campus avenues on July 29, 2014. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Finally, four more houses will be razed: 63 and 53 Campus Ave., and 109 and 111 Bardwell St., roughly opposite Chase Hall. The second student residence, 55 Campus Ave., will go up on that block.

Webster Tree Service of Auburn, a subcontractor of Gendron & Gendron, begins tree removal at the corner of Central and Campus avenues on July 30, 2014, in preparation for building demolition the following week. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Webster Tree Service of Auburn, a subcontractor of Gendron & Gendron, begins tree removal at the corner of Central and Campus avenues on July 30, 2014, in preparation for building demolition the following week. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

An aspect of the project less dramatic than the removal of familiar buildings, but perhaps more pertinent to many Bates people, is the closure of the college parking lot on Franklin Street.

Effective Aug. 15, the closure will be offset by the opening of new faculty and staff parking both behind and in front of Smith Hall — part of a slate of important parking changes that you can, and should, read all about here: http://www.bates.edu/security/parkingbicycles/parking-policy/.

“We’re pleased with how the demolition went,” says project manager Chris Streifel. “The contractor did what they were supposed to do, and did it smoothly and effectively with minimum disruption to the campus, given the scope of the work.”

Henceforth, with the possible exception of a little soil removal, the Central-to-Franklin site should be quiet as the action moves to the next block. Streifel explains that the deadline for clearing the second site is the start of school, Sept. 2.

Thereafter, says Streifel, comes utilities work focusing on connections between the forthcoming Campus Life Project infrastructure and the existing services beneath the streets surrounding the project — services such as data and telephone, electrical, water, storm runoff and sewerage.

The former Alumni House on Aug. 4, 2014, the day before its demolition. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The former Alumni House on Aug. 4, 2014, the day before its demolition. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

“We want to get as much of the street utility work as possible done this fall,” he explains. “We’re trying to beat the shutdown” of asphalt suppliers, who tend to end their season around Thanksgiving. “The idea is to get in and out of the streets this year.”

All of which will cause some interruptions to traffic on Campus Ave this fall — lane closures and street-width closures. “Some inconveniences, without a doubt,” Streifel says. Specific blockages, he says, will be announced as early as possible.

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