VAC construction disrupts business

Although the College’s new Visual Arts Center is still slated to open in May 2012, construction of the building’s foundation has taken longer and has been noisier than builders and project managers anticipated, according to Chief Facilities Operator Linda Snyder. While College officials are considering alternative plans to reduce the disruption, local business owners and employees working on Lebanon Street have complained about the noise and other inconveniences resulting from the construction.

“My office has a window that’s not far at all from the drilling, so I know exactly what everyone is living through,” Snyder said. “The noise is worse than we expected, and we’re very sorry for that.”

Construction workers are currently establishing the foundation of the VAC, which entails breaking the building’s granite base and drilling other structures into the base that will anchor the building, according to Snyder. This process created an unexpected and unprecedented amount of noise since the granite is the “hardest” that many workers on the project had ever dealt with, Snyder said.

An analysis of the construction is currently underway, which aims to use the “hardness of the rock as an asset and not an enemy,” Snyder said. The analysis will also investigate the possibility of shallower and less extensive drilling, although the work will likely still last for at least another eight weeks, Snyder added.

Although the difficulty encountered while laying the foundation might delay the construction’s schedule approximately “four weeks,” College officials still expect to host classes in the VAC in Fall 2012, she said.

The College has offered residents and businesses affected by the construction various ways to voice their concerns, Snyder said. Director of Project Management Matthew Purcell regularly sends e-mails to the Hanover community with construction updates and allows people to call project manager Rick Jaros with complaints, according to Snyder.

“The complaints that I’ve heard about are [from] people doing business or living on Lebanon Street,” she said. “Our project managers have been talking to people and are available to deal with particular issues as they arise.”

Several business owners and employees interviewed by The Dartmouth said they have noticed negative consequences of the noise and dirt associated with the construction.

“It’s super loud,” Evan Haire, who works at Hanover Outdoors, said. “We haven’t been able to put anything outside because dust is getting on it.”

Kenneth Fabrikant of Rosey Jekes Cafe also cited the dust from the drilling as a problem resulting from the construction.

“We have to keep our doors closed, which increases our air conditioning and utility bill,” he said. “We have to clean the store more frequently.”

Due to the constant drilling and pounding, as well as frequent closings of sidewalks and parking spaces, shops off of Lebanon Street have experienced less business since the construction began.

“[Business] has taken a little bit of a hit,” Haire said. “There’s a lot less tourists coming down South Main Street they don’t want to come here.”

The construction also caused some of the signs at Rosey Jekes to fall off the side of the building, according to Fabrikant. Additionally, since the normal entrance to Rosey Jekes is occasionally obstructed by the construction, customers are sometimes unaware if the Cafe is open or how to access it, he said.

“We might construct a letter that will enumerate some of the casualties,” Fabrikant said. “Maybe [the College] can compensate us for some of these inconveniences.”

The problems caused by the VAC’s construction were a “surprising” element of the construction, Snyder said.

“We’ve had demolition, we’ve had site construction, we’ve built a new loading dock for the Spaulding Auditorium,” she said. “Everything up to now has gone in line with expectations and according to plan. This is the first site condition that has really caused some difficulty.”

The completed VAC will be worth the various “hassles” that have resulted from the construction, Fabrikant said.

“I look forward to Fall 2012 when construction is finished and a beautiful building is across the street,” he said. “Maybe our pioneering [of Lebanon Street] in 1977 will pay off in 2012 when Lebanon Street is as popular as Main Street. Ultimately, it will probably enhance the value of this building.”

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