Pitzer Continues Campus Construction, Renovation

Pitzer College welcomed its students with two new residence halls, a media center and a demonstration kitchen. However, construction at Pitzer is far from over, as the school begins renovating existing campus structures and looks toward the final stage of its overhaul of on-campus housing. 

Renovation began in August on the school’s Scott Hall, which houses administrative and faculty offices. The hall is being renovated with the goal of “reconfiguring the interior spaces so there’s more opportunity for the offices to work more closely with each other,” said Jim Marchant, Vice President of Student Affairs at Pitzer. 

The Career Services office will be located next to the Dean of Students' office, and the Community Engagement Center will be next to the Dean of Faculty’s office. 

“It’ll be more open and inviting and welcoming," Marchant said. "It’ll be easier for students to come and access these offices." 

To accommodate the renovation, administrative and faculty offices are located in Holden Hall this year. 

Renovation on the Gold Student Center will also begin this year, Marchant said. 

“It needs some updating,” he said. “It also just needs some newer spaces, more student lounge space, more space for student clubs and organizations.” 

Demolition is planned for May or June, and Marchant expects the new center to open in the fall of 2014. 

Marchant said that both renovations, which will cost $5 million to $7 million apiece, are being conducted with sustainability in mind. The buildings will incorporate local materials, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and better use of natural lighting, he said. 

The renovations are distinct from Pitzer’s three-part Residential Life Project, which was developed to reinvent housing at Pitzer.  

Phase I of the project saw the construction of three first-year residence halls, which were finished in 2007.

The construction completed this August constitutes Phase II of the project, which cost the school about $33 million to plan, build and furnish. 

The Phase II buildings house dorm rooms, common areas, seminar rooms, a media center, Pitzer’s study abroad program, the Pitzer Archives and a demonstration kitchen. 

The school expects the new structures to earn platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The buildings include many green features, including rooftop gardens that provide natural insulation, solar panels on the roofs and a gray-water reclamation system, which filters sink and shower water to reuse for irrigation.

Despite the projected LEED certification, some students and faculty members are concerned about the construction's impact on the Outback, the undeveloped area that contains chaparral and coastal sage scrub in the northeastern corner of Pitzer's campus. More than an acre of the land is now occupied by the Phase II buildings. 

“That land’s gone forever,” said Paul Faulstich, an environmental analysis professor at Pitzer. “Because of that, it makes protecting what we have left all the more critical.”

His "Restoring Nature" class is working to clean up the Outback, by eliminating invasive species and plant native species. 

“What we’re trying to do is mitigate the impact of the new construction on the Outback and restore balance to the remaining area,” he said. 

Marchant said that Pitzer is committed to keeping the remaining 3.5 acres of land undeveloped. 

The two new residence halls, East Hall and West Hall, contain roughly 300 student beds. The rooms are configured either as two doubles sharing a bathroom, or as four singles sharing a bathroom and common area. 

The addition incorporates about 20 study rooms and lounges, with decks and balconies around the buildings. 

“It’s really nice," Tomas Andreani PZ ’13 said. "It looks very professional.” 

“The balcony aspect is an upgrade,” Sarah Schuster-Johnson PZ ’14 said.

West Hall also houses the Mosbacher/Gartrell Center for Media Experimentation and Activism. 

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be here,” said Ming-Yuen Ma, head of the Intercollegiate Media Studies Department.

The center includes staff offices, two specially equipped classrooms, shooting studios, editing rooms and a gallery that will showcase student work. 

Another component of the addition is the demonstration kitchen, which includes gas stoves, ovens and lots of counter space.  

“We’re all so excited to be here,” said Somer Drummond PZ ’14, who was using the kitchen along with other members of Pitzer’s Cooking Club to make Indian food. 

The kitchen is open to any student who wishes to use it. 

“Almost every time I walk by, there’s someone in here,” Aidan Lukomnik PZ ’14 said. 

Marchant said that mixed-use space “helps students understand that learning takes place outside the classroom.” 

“You don’t have to be in the formal classroom setting or the lab to really have an enriching college experience,” he said. “The educational spaces are mixed in alongside the social, recreational and residential spaces.”

With this construction complete, Pitzer is planning for the third and final phase of its Residential Life Project. 

Holden Hall will be demolished and replaced with a smaller residence hall, which will combine dorm rooms with offices and other spaces. 

Part of Mead Hall will also be renovated, and part of the hall will be demolished to create open space, “so you have sight lines going from our student center over to the western part of campus,” Marchant said. 

However, he does not expect Phase III construction to begin for another five to seven years. 

“Right now, it’s not the highest priority just because we have other projects we’re working on,” he said.