Performing Arts Center in Spotlight – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Performing Arts Center in Spotlight

The significant progress of the Colleges’ new 65,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center that will be at the heart of the HWS campus was recently highlighted in a feature article published in the Finger Lakes Times. Senior Project Manager and Associate Director for Planning and Construction Chris Button was quoted about the project’s development.

“Things went very speedily and actually have continued to be very fast, very positive – no major glitches,” Button said. “This has been a fantastic job. It’s certainly not without some challenges, but it’s going exceptionally well.”

In the piece, Button describes the project’s connection to the community and its role as a “rallying point for this campus.” When completed in January 2016, the state-of-the-art facility will serve as a space for dance, theatre, music, and film endeavors.

“Everyone is just working very well together. You always hope for a good job. I’ve been doing this for 20 years – this one is exceptional,” Button said.

Designed by acclaimed Cambridge, Mass.,-based architect, The GUND Partnership, the new building will complement the campus aesthetic, with its warm brick façade, tall sweeping windows, steep pitched slate roof and striking entry. It draws inspiration from the historic character of Medbery, Coxe, and Smith Halls while giving a respectful nod to the more modern Melly Academic Center and Scandling Campus Center.

The full article is as follows:


Finger Lakes Times
Despite Harsh Winter, HWS Arts Center Work Remains on Track

Jim Miller • March 19, 2015

GENEVA – For a sure sign of spring, look to the Performing Arts Center now under construction at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

When work starts on the windows, slate roof and exterior brick, it will mean the warm weather is really and truly here, said Chris Button, the Colleges’ associate director for planning and construction. In the meantime, work will continue inside the 65,000-square-foot structure, which is on schedule despite the harsh winter.

“Things went very speedily and actually have continued to be very fast, very positive – no major glitches,” he said. “This has been a fantastic job. It’s certainly not without some challenges, but it’s going exceptionally well.”

Construction began this past June, right after students left the campus. The target date for its opening remains Jan. 16, 2016, the first day of the Colleges’ Spring 2016 semester.

Early on, workers demolished houses and the parking lot on the site. They had to deal with poor-quality soil, which meant extra excavation. Later, rain and cold caused some issues.

“The big deal with that is it’s miserable to work in, but, more importantly, the glue in the masonry … doesn’t stick when it’s under 25 degrees,” Button said.

The weather did cause some delays. Workers used temporary heaters to overcome some of the problems it caused, and Button had also built extra time into the construction schedule to account for the inevitable issues that arise on a project of the center’s scale.

Button said the campus community also did its part. He twice put out a call for cookies for the workers, and dozens of trays showed up in his office.

“This really has taken on a life of its own,” he said. “It’s been a rallying point for this campus.”

In addition, the Colleges worked hard to build a strong construction team, which helped keep things going smoothly during the deep freeze.

“These men and women feel at a deep level a part of this job and this community,” Button said.

When complete, the center will offer space for music, dance, theater and media and society programs.

The design includes a brick facade, tall windows and steep-pitched roofs. Inside, it will feature an open lobby and flexible performance and rehearsal spaces.

The building will be the first on campus with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver or better certification.

When ground was ceremonially broke in April 2014, officials at the Colleges said $28 million had already been committed to the project. The Colleges consider it the biggest capital project in their history.

Currently, construction crews are working on interior studs and piping. Next will come electrical work.

“The inside of the building is now beginning to come together, the skeleton of it, anyway,” Button said.

This summer’s agenda includes some initial landscaping and more work on the parking lot. As January of 2016 approaches, workers will finish off the interior with carpeting and paint.

“I’d actually like the building done earlier than that,” Button said. “That gives me the month of December to move in furniture, hang art.”

Overall, Button believes the project is going better than expected. He attributed that in part to the high level of cooperation among the workers and contractors involved.

“Everyone is just working very well together,” he said. “You always hope for a good job. I’ve been doing this for 20 years – this one is exceptional.”

For more information and updates, visit Button’s blog at www.hwsperformingarts.org.

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