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Breaking Ground for a Groundbreaking New Academic Building
CHESTERTOWN, MD—Washington College ceremoniously broke ground for the first phase of a new academic building April 17, with state dignitaries and members of the Board of Visitors & Governors on hand to mark the occasion with remarks and gold-painted shovels.
The new building will be constructed at 215 Washington Avenue, on the site of the former Kent County Board of Education building. That brick structure was built a century ago to house Chestertown High School but has been vacant since the school board moved its offices to Rock Hall in December of 2010. Scheduled to open in time for the opening of the fall 2016 semester, the first of two buildings planned for the site will be a two-story rectangle that houses offices, classrooms, laboratory space and study areas for the departments of anthropology and environmental science and studies. It also will be home for the George and Barbara Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning, which supports faculty innovations through talks, workshops and grants.
“In the past, this was where generations of Kent County’s schoolchildren were educated,” said interim president Jay Griswold in welcoming the gathered crowd. In the near future, he added, it will be where generations of Washington College students will be educated and where their professors can test new teaching methods and technologies. He praised the Cromwells as tireless supporters of Washington College. “Their generosity has been instrumental in helping the College create the kind of environment that allows our professors to advance a culture of teaching excellence while preparing our students for a world desperately in need of creative solutions,” he said.
Griswold offered an update on the site prep for the project: Asbestos abatement is underway in the building, two underground oil-storage tanks have been removed, and demolition is scheduled to begin in mid May. He thanked two Maryland officials who were instrumental in helping the College secure $3.6 million in state matching funds for the new building: Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr., president of the Maryland Senate, and Baltimore County Delegate Adrienne A. Jones, the speaker pro tem of the House of Delegates, who each made brief remarks.
Senator Miller, who holds an honorary degree from Washington College, called it a jewel in the crown of Maryland’s higher education network. “It is well known not just on the Eastern Shore, but throughout the state and nationally,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to grow.” Jones, who chairs the Capital Budgets Subcommittee for the House of Delegates, said she first came to Chestertown to learn about the project in September 2013, when she studied drawings, met with college officials, and toured the existing building. She acknowledged that the former school building has a rich history but that the best way for the project to be successful is to demolish it and make way for the new design. “The new facility will be a treasure in this community,” she said.
In her remarks, Provost and Dean Emily Chamlee-Wright said the design of the new building “will support, in every way possible, the engaged teaching and learning that is the hallmark of a Washington College education.” The two departments that will move into it, “exemplify the power of interdisciplinary inquiry to open students’ minds and open doors to their future,” she added.
EYP Architecture & Engineering, a firm that has a deep resumé in designing academic facilities, designed both phases of the new complex. EYP specializes in sustainable design for corporate, government, and higher education clients around the world and has a dozen offices across the country. When the firm was selected, EYP Project Executive Elissa Kellett described the Washington College project as “especially exciting because of its aggressive sustainability goals within the context of an historic district and an environmentally sensitive area.” Project architects are Suzanne Kelin and Brian Tucker, and project managers are Joshua George and Monica Lerro.
Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner Contracting will handle both the demolition of the Board of Education structure and the construction of the new building.
The building is aiming for LEED Gold certification in “green” design and construction. Sustainable features will include geothermal heating, energy-efficient lighting, and a two-thirds reduction in the amount of impermeable, or paved, surfaces now on the site. A system of filtered collection pools will capture rainwater and direct it into the town’s stormwater pipes.
When funding allows, a second building phase will provide an additional wing designed to hold labs for computers, robotics, and educational innovation, plus a culinary lab. When both phases are complete, the new academic complex will have a U-shaped footprint surrounding a green space.