And now for the construction project we’ve all been waiting for: Bates’ new science building.

The week of March 18 is when you’ll see the first bold strokes — site fencing, building demolition, the clearing of trees and brush — in a two-and-a-half-year project that promises great things for Bates.

Going up at 45 Campus Ave., across from Carnegie Science Hall on a plot bordered by Bardwell and Nichols streets, the project will give the college another destination along its southern edge, amping up the energy created by the 2016 opening of student residences on the avenue, Kalperis and Chu halls.

The structure will be visible from the heart of campus — in fact, a key feature is named the Beacon — and is meant as a gathering space for students in all disciplines. Its design, by the Boston firm Payette, uses eye-catching contours and generous expanses of glass to bring a contemporary note to Bates’ bricky design heritage.

All that said, though, the building’s biggest and furthest-reaching contributions will likely be academic. Bringing together programs in chemistry, biology, and neuroscience, the facility will advance faculty collaboration and set the pace for the evolution of science education at Bates.

At three stories and about 65,000 square feet, the building will house cutting-edge technology, flexible spaces for teaching and research, and, extending an architectural theme prevalent in recent Bates construction, areas that support study and interaction. And the new building is the linchpin in a strategic plan for upgrading Bates science facilities, a plan that entails a serious makeover for Dana Chemistry and vital improvements to Carnegie Science.

An architectural rendering of the new science building at Bates, opening in 2021.

Announced about a year ago, the project is anchored by a $50 million donation from the family foundation of Alison Grott Bonney ’80 and Michael Bonney ’80. The building will open in time for the 2021–22 school year.

The construction site is occupied now, but not for long, by trees, brush, parking, and three buildings. On Nichols Street, nos. 141 and 145 housed the Bates Communications Office until last November (and Admission during the winter while Lindholm House underwent a refresh). The recovery of still-useful stuff from the buildings, followed by asbestos remediation, has been in progress for weeks.

Snowbanks on the future site of Bates’ new science building nearly conceal a garage that, until it was cleared out last summer, was used for storage by the geology department and other science programs. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

The third building is a garage that the geology and other science departments have used for storage. (Old core samples, anyone?) That garage once belonged to a much different 45 Campus Ave. — a house, torn down in 2014, that was most recently used by student organizations and, until Pettengill Hall opened in 1999, the politics department.

For some folks, the most conspicuous sign of the project’ beginning will be the closure, effective at the end of the day March 17, of the parking lot at the corner of Nichols and Campus. On-street parking in the immediate vicinity of the building site will be also be restricted. But the college has rented a lot nearby, on Vale Street near Wood, for supplemental staff and faculty parking.

Designer of Bates’ new science building, the Boston firm Payette had these mockups placed on the project site in summer 2018 to test the effects of different brick treatments. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

In what Chris Streifel, the Bates project manager for the new building, describes as “mobilization activities,” the week of the 18th will see the placement of Campus Construction Update’s nemesis, a construction fence. Shortly afterward, the portable field office for Consigli Construction Co., the firm that’s managing construction of the project for Bates, will show up.

Regular readers of these updates will be familiar with Consigli, whose Bates projects have included the dining Commons (2008); Chu and Kalperis halls; the Traquina Boathouse (2016); and a renovation of the Peter J. Gomes Chapel that’s in progress now.

Also during the week of the 18th, cameras and nostalgia will run rampant as 141 and 145 are demolished (along with the garage, but who will weep for the garage?).

Trees and brush will be removed. Gravel pads will be laid at site entrances and at equipment work stations, the former to keep vehicles from tracking mud into the street and the second to give big machines firm footing.

Nichols Street angles off to the right and Campus Avenue to the left in this view of the future site of the new Bates science building. At far left is Chu Hall. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

And then, probably the week of March 25, excavation for the foundation will commence. “They won’t wait too long to start digging the hole,” Streifel says. “There won’t be a lot of other activities prior to just moving dirt.” The dig will continue well into May.

Streifel notes that the 45 Campus Ave. construction site, unlike nearby Chu and Kalperis, is very tight relative to the size of the building. For example, Chu Hall, with a footprint of roughly 10,000 gross square feet, had a 72,000-square-foot construction site to work with — vs. the new science building, whose 15,500-square-foot, er, footprint has to be content with about 44,000 square feet of land. So Chu occupied about an eighth of its construction site, and the new building, more than a third.

That has implications. For instance, most of the construction workers will end up parking a block or so away, at a different Vale Street lot. More important, as Streifel explains, there won’t be room to slope the sides of the excavation to prevent sliding earth. Instead, corrugated metal sheets or something similar will serve as retaining walls. (We won’t even mention the impact of the small lot on Campus Construction Update, who will have less room to stand around in.)

Closing at the end of the business day on Friday, March 15, is the Nichols Street parking lot. A temporary lot on Vale Street is providing supplementary parking. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

For Streifel, who oversaw Chu and Kalperis for Bates and who was named project manager for the new science building in late 2017, recent weeks have been consumed with negotiating contracts, finalizing budgets, and working out schedules.

Budgets and schedules have been particularly volatile. “The construction marketplace right now is busy, which puts pressure on pricing, pressure on schedules, pressure on supply and demand,” he says. “There’s a lot of demand, and supply is fixed for the most part, so it’s just hard to say with as much certainty as you can at other times where a project is going to price out at.”

The science building is a signature facility for Bates, and Streifel is raring for the construction itself to leave the gate. “This is a major undertaking,” he says. “And it’s happening, and here we go.”

Can we talk? Please send your thoughts about past, present, future, and speculative Bates construction projects to Doug Hubley. Please put “Construction Update” or “I — I! — will weep for the garage!” in the subject line.

The former Bates Communications Office houses, aka Bates Communications Plaza, on Nichols Street: 145, at left, and 141. The former Campus Construction Update Penthouse is at the upper rear of 141, not shown here. (Doug Hubley/Bates College)

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