CRE N Illinois

Wight & Company begins construction on U of C student wellness center

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Wight & Company started construction on the new Student Wellness Center at the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus. Scheduled for completion in fall 2020, the new center will create a single, integrated facility for the university’s student health, counseling and wellness resources.

Working with an aggressive timeline, Wight & Company will complete the first phase of the project by spring 2020. The firm is also partnering with GMA Construction, a veteran and minority-owned firm based on Chicago’s South Side. GMA will augment Wight’s construction management services and will advance the University of Chicago’s commitment to enhance business diversity and expand economic opportunities.

“We’re updating a historic building to enable the University of Chicago to meet the comprehensive health and wellness needs of students, and we are doing so in a way that is deeply respectful of the original architecture and seamless in its integration of past and present,” said Kevin Havens, executive vice president, director of design at Wight & Company.

The 30,000-square-foot project includes the ground floor renovation of a portion of the historic building that currently houses the school’s student health clinic, known as the Lying-In Hospital. In addition, Wight is constructing a new modern glass addition, infilling an existing courtyard that will accommodate student counseling and health promotion services, both of which are relocating from separate campus locations. The new center will also provide a dedicated student entrance for greater ease of access.

“Providing excellent health and wellness services to students in the undergraduate college, graduate and professional schools is an important priority for the University of Chicago,” said Michele Rasmussen, dean of students in the university. “This new Student Wellness Center will provide more space, allowing us to increase our staff of medical and mental health providers, and enabling us to build on the enhancements we’ve made in recent years to our programs and services.”

Located at the corner of 59th Street and Maryland Avenue, the multi-story Lying-In Hospital building was designed in the late 1920’s by Schmidt, Garden & Erickson in a Collegiate Gothic style. The project will capture the highly detailed limestone facades of the courtyard within the modern interior of the new infill addition. The gothic stone masonry will be on display, comprising the perimeter circulation walls of the main corridors. Continuous overhead skylights will bring abundant natural light into these passages, celebrating the building’s craftsmanship and continuity between old and new.

The new courtyard addition was designed as a single-story glass structure to maintain a low profile when viewed from the street. The entrance to the Student Wellness Center will be recessed behind the existing gothic cloister fronting 59th Street to avoid altering the appearance of the historic Lying-in Hospital. This original colonnade has been closed-off for decades but will be restored and reopened as the entrance to the new Student Wellness Center, according to Havens. A small landscape courtyard will provide a transition from 59th Street through the cloister to the entrance and lobby of the new facility. The glass addition and small courtyard will also allow students to enjoy both daylight and framed views of the Midway Plaisance, a mile-long stretch of public park that fronts the southern boundary of the university’s campus.

“One of the primary reasons we chose Wight & Company is because of the firm’s integrated design and construction capabilities, which enable us to fully leverage their architecture, engineering and construction disciplines,” said Jim McConnell, associate vice president of facilities services at University of Chicago. “The integrated approach allows us to address the complexities of the project, maximize our budget, and complete the new facility on an accelerated schedule and with minimal disruption to students, faculty and visitors.”