Categories
News

Outdoor WiFi, lights, furniture to be installed in new Belle’s Corner outside Le Mans

Every day, students pass the west entrance of Le Mans Hall and watch as workers spread gravel, lay patio tiles and work to turn the space into… What?

Construction outside of Le Mans Hall on what will soon be a patio for the new Belle’s Corner outdoor space.

With no report from the College, Saint Mary’s students do not know what the construction is for.

In 2020, the space was a popular hangout spot called Belle’s Corner. Due to COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting eating in the dining hall, it was outfitted with tables, chairs and string lights to give students an outdoor seating option.

So why get rid of it?

According to Ben Bowman, director of facilities, the furniture used in Belle’s Corner was moved to Belle’s Backyard in 2021.

“We wanted that furniture to be closer to the main east and west walkway,” Bowman said. “We thought it would be more attractive.”

However, the College still wanted to offer an abundance of outdoor seating. The new Belle’s Corner will be a paved outdoor seating area with tables, chairs, lights and fireplaces and is currently under construction.

Bowman discussed many features of the new space, including highlighting its natural beauty.

“We’re trying to preserve the trees that are there and keep a canopy over the patio space,” he said.

The previous Belle’s Corner setup caused many issues with lawn maintenance, but the new permeable paver system will allow rainwater to travel between the pavers and down to the roots of the trees below, Bowman said.

Additionally, this new space will be outfitted with WiFi, something Bowman hopes will draw students to the space. There will be electrical power for a DJ booth for the patio to be utilized at outdoor events.

A map showing what the new Belle’s Corner will look like once construction is complete.

A common complaint among students, however, was the lack of information and student input.

“I don’t even know what’s happening,” said Le Mans resident and senior Isabella Thompson-Davoli. “I figured it out by now that it’s some sort of patio, but it would have been nice to hear about it from the College.”

Junior Le Mans resident Anna McMahon had similar thoughts.

“I really liked the way the area used to be, I hope it doesn’t change too much,” she said.

Bowman said there was input on the project, just not from students.

“There are a lot of administrative offices that overlook that space,” Bowman said. “They asked for facilities and administration input.”

Another common complaint from students was that construction is being done now rather than over the summer.

“I like the idea, but it’s going to be getting cold soon, so I probably won’t even use it until next spring,” Thompson-Davoli said. 

Bowman said there was no way around it.

“We had difficulty this summer with contractors and labor shortages,” he said.

Regardless, Bowman said the new space will require 180 tons of gravel and boast 400 inches of lights and 111 pieces of furniture. The construction will also maintain four trees that are natural to the area.

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu

Categories
News

Sorin College welcomes students back following year-long renovation

Sorin College, built in 1888 and named after Fr. Edward Sorin, C.S.C, finally welcomed new and returning students back inside its walls this August after fourteen months of extensive renovations. 

Sorin residents spent the last school year living in Zahm House while construction crews built a new addition on the West Courtyard. This expansion of the building was the third of its kind and was planned out by Fr. Sorin as outlined in a series of documents discovered by director of construction Tony Polotto and his team.  

A socializing space inside one of Sorin College’s signature turrets. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

“There was a sketch from Fr. Sorin to actually enclose the building for a third edition when it was outgrown, essentially,” Polotto said. “The challenge from our office was always to make modern improvements to the building without destroying the character of the building because Sorin Hall is precious to this University and to the generations of students that graduated and went through the hall.” 

Over 69,000 man hours were spent on the major improvements that included additional study lounges, social gathering spaces, offices, exercise rooms and kitchens. The majority of the first floor was converted to spaces for socialization and relaxation. The number of student beds increased slightly from 147 to 148.

These renovations were undertaken by various crews of electricians, roofers, concrete finishers and many other craftsmen who worked on the interior of the building.  

“In some cases, we had 70 people there working and other days we had 10,” Polotto said. “It was an up and down process, but it averaged out to 33 people working on Sorin Hall everyday for fourteen months.”

Student responses to the new study spaces and kitchens the crews built have been overwhelmingly positive as the renovations have allowed for them to grow and congregate together in ways that had not existed for past generations, according to Sorin College president and sophomore Patrick Hanley.

“I think the first floor is definitely the most useful part just because that’s where the study rooms and the lounges are. That’s where our food sales are going to be set up,” Hanley said. “Before, with the exception of weekends, we’d hang out more in our rooms, but now, I see most students in the study room or lounges on the first floor.”

Upperclassmen shared in the consensus that it was great to be back in the dorm after a year without the unique traditions, history and the feel of their true home on campus, Hanley added. 

Sorin College recently completed renovations lasting around fourteen months. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

Sorin College was the first facility declared a residence hall by Fr. Sorin, and there are several unique features that students are glad to see remain the same following the renovations.   

“I think the biggest thing that sets Sorin apart is definitely the turret rooms,” Hanley said. “Those are the bigger rooms that have been a staple of Sorin for probably centuries, and I think some of the Four Horsemen lived in them. There are plaques that denote the history behind them.” 

Polotto said the construction crews and the University intended to make the hall as beautiful as it could possibly be while also preserving the original structure of the building, and students appear to agree that those goals were achieved.

Polotto said he will continue to check in on Sorin College over the next several months to talk to students and receive feedback on the renovations.