SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – With Seton Hall University about to undertake a massive new rebuilding and construction phase that could last as long as five years, the campus and the surrounding community are bracing for a long period of disruption.

University officials say they will try to keep the disruptions to a minimum, but the record of previous construction phases on campus suggests that the rebuilding is likely to take a toll on the patience of students, faculty and residents in the surrounding community of South Orange.

  • REBUILDING SHU: Part 11 of 11. Seton Hall University embarks on the biggest campus renovation in a generation, hoping to make life better for students without making life worse for residents of South Orange. Read Part 10: Lost Opportunities.

The last time Seton Hall experienced a mass change to the structure of the campus was in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. Three dorms—Neumann Hall, Cabrini Hall and Serra Hall—were all built in the late 1980s,  while the new home of the School of Business, Jubilee Hall (formerly known as Kozlowski Hall) and Walsh Library were built in the 1990s.

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Construction of the three dorms posed a major challenge for the builders and for students who continued to attend class in nearby Fahy Hall and Arts & Sciences Hall. A construction accident caused the death of two construction workers. According to an article in The Evening News, a crane collapsed killing workers Louis Alanzo and Ernest Traylor.

A memorial stone placed near the dorm says “On January 19, 1988, Louis Alanzo and Ernest Traylor lost their lives during this construction. In their memory we dedicate these residence halls, October 15, 1988.”

Other buildings have their own sad history. One of the largest buildings on campus, Jubilee Hall, was finished in 1997 and named for its primary benefactor, Leonard Dennis Kozlowski, chief executive officer of Tyco International, a large securities company. The name of the building was changed after Kozlowski was convicted of fiscal improprieties for his role in the Tyco International scandal in 2005.

Seton Hall also renamed the recently expanded athletic complex the Richie Regan Recreation Center after its original namesake, the financier Robert Brennan, was convicted of securities fraud in 1994.

Another huge project of that time saw the demolition of Seton Hall’s old main library to make room for Jubilee Hall. Its replacement was built near the recreation center in 1994 and named Walsh Library (one of its benefactors, Frank Walsh, was a director of Tyco International who was implicated in the 2005 scandal).

Construction of these buildings was complicated by the existence of underground plumbing that caused flooding.

The Rev. Joseph Wortmann, who enrolled at Seton Hall as an undergraduate in 1947 and has been involved with the university longer than anyone else on campus, recalled that construction of the field house at the athletic center was delayed after “they dug deep and hit water.”

Something similar occurred during the construction of Jubilee Hall, according to Tracy H. Gottlieb, vice president of student services.  “There was a big giant hole in the campus and it filled up with water,” Gottlieb recalled. “For at least one semester there was a Lake Seton Hall, and that was Jubilee Hall.”

Having lived through the last big construction phase on campus, Wortmann said he did not find it to have been very disruptive. “It was not particularly noisy,” he said. However, he believes the rash of new buildings will pose challenges for the architects and builders. “The problem is, now, there just isn’t a lot of space on this campus,” he said.

Seton Hall President A. Gabriel Esteban conceded that disruption will be inevitable in the upcoming projects. “Whenever you have construction, unfortunately, you’re going to have some disruption,” he said. “We’re trying to minimize it, in terms of where we’re trying to stage the construction.”

Esteban maintained that students will be spared the biggest commotion. “Most of the heavy noise, digging, and sawing should be finished during the summer,” he said. Still, he continued, despite all the precautions the university will take to minimize the disruptions, “let’s face it you’re going to hear pounding.”

Seton Hall University plans to begin this latest rebuilding phase in the summer of 2013 and continue it for several years. Students who will live in Aquinas while the construction is being completed next year will receive a discount on their housing costs to make up for the inconvenience and disruption.

Offices and classrooms will have to be relocated as the other projects move forward, and several temporary buildings will have to be erected to house the main student cafeteria throughout construction of the new university center, making it likely that the disruptions will last the entire time that the incoming class of 2017 is on campus.  

This series was reported and written by the Advanced Reporting class at Seton Hall University. This article was written by Joseph A. Martinez, a junior.