The Catholic University of America

Nov. 21, 2014

President Garvey Tours West Campus

 
  Kurt Wiebusch (left) and Jerry Conrad (right) from the Office of Facilities Operations discuss the development of West Campus with President John Garvey.
 

In early November, University President John Garvey toured a construction site on West Campus that eventually will become part of a new main entrance to Catholic University with Jerry Conrad, associate vice president for facilities operations, and Kurt Wiebusch, director of facilities planning and construction. West Campus consists of more than 40 acres of land to the west of Harewood Road, adjacent to North Capitol Street.

The development of this land is part of the 2012 Master Plan. The plan — which will take some years to bring to fruition — proposes a new main entrance to the campus via North Capitol Street through West Campus. A winding road will traverse West Campus, exiting opposite the University entrance that exists between Ward Hall and the north end of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The landscaping of the redeveloped property will mimic the “pastoral” landscape that exists on the University’s main campus — “rolling topography, winding pathways, informal plantings, and mown turf,” as described in the Master Plan.

Cars will enter from North Capitol Street. As the road winds through West Campus, the elevation of the land will allow for “spectacular” views of some of the University’s oldest buildings before winding down to a lower elevation west of the Basilica by Ward Hall, Conrad noted.

 

The view of McMahon Hall from West Campus.

 

“It was very interesting to see the expanse of the main campus from elevated vantage points to the west,” President Garvey remarked. “When the project has been completed and we have opened a road to campus from North Capitol Street, it will be impressive for our visitors driving through the green space of West Campus to come upon the vistas of Caldwell, McMahon, and the Basilica. Though I live right across the street from West Campus, I was surprised to see how hilly the land there is in places.”

There is about 70-feet of difference in topography within this area of land. The highest hills were formed from deposits of fill materials (dirt and rocks) that came from construction excavations in other locations prior to the University’s purchase of the land in 2004. The work currently being done at the site involves moving the dirt from the highest areas and filling in some of the lower ravines. More than 80,000 cubic yards of dirt will be moved. An average dump truck holds 10 to 12 cubic yards of dirt.

Meadows will be created adjacent to the new road. Some areas will be grassy and meant for recreation use. Others will be planted with wildflowers and other native plants to cut down on mowing needs.

In the future phases of the development project, parking will be established on the eastern edge of West Campus across Harewood Road from Ward, Leahy, and Hartke halls. This will allow for McMahon parking lot to be transformed into green space.

 
  A view of the Basilica from West Campus.

The new entrance and the eventual construction of a parking lot will address several issues listed in the master plan:

  • The University lacks a main entrance that establishes an identity for the campus.
     
  • Vehicle traffic and parking should not dominate campus at the expense of the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.
     
  • Surface parking on campus impacts the visual appearance of the University negatively and impervious surfaces used for parking also lead to higher levels of stormwater runoff.

University officials are paying particular attention to ensuring the area of West Campus is landscaped in a sustainable way. Stormwater runoff will be collected into basins that will naturally filter the water while ensuring it is reabsorbed into the ground at an acceptable rate to prevent erosion.

Conrad notes that this first phase of clearing and excavation were made possible by using remaining bond proceeds that had been allocated to the West Campus. Future work on the site will unfold over time as additional funding becomes available.

 

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