Published: Fall 2009 in College News

Construction Makes Measurable Progress

While faculty families move into rebuilt Las Barrancas homes, crews put down sod on athletic fields and install a new bridge

A huge crane slowly lowered a new, 130-foot steel bridge behind Westmont’s Van Kampen Hall Nov. 20. The bridge, which features a six-foot-wide wooden deck, connects the new residence hall site to the stone pine grove below the dining commons.

“The new bridge removes a constriction in the creek below and creates a more accessible route through campus,” says Randy Jones, director of campus planning. A foot path from Armington Hall will also connect to the bridge. The former sandstone bridge and unsafe staircase were dismantled and the stones reused for curbs near Kerrwood.

Workers laid asphalt on the new track and let it cure before installing an all-weather surface. Now that sod covers the soccer and baseball fields, mowing the new grass encourages the roots to grow. The baseball team is using the new batting cages, while crews install netting behind home plate and the screen for the batter’s eye beyond center field.

The focus at Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics and Adams Center for the Visual Arts is on the inside, where workers are building interior systems. Crews are also doing exterior stone work at Winter.

The 14 Las Barrancas faculty homes destroyed in the Tea Fire have been rebuilt less than a year after the blaze. Some faculty moved in immediately after a Nov. 1 rededication service, while others took longer.

Dave Wolf, director of soccer operations, and his family lived in four different houses following the fire. “It’s been hard for Jill and me to conjure the emotional energy to move — and we don’t have a lot to move,” he says. One of the only things Jill found in the ashes of their home was a charred ceramic welcome sign. The Wolfs and their five children have embedded the 12-inch piece that used to be in the front of their home into the concrete of their back patio.

“It’ll feel like home again when our friends are around and inside,” Wolf says. “It’s going to take some getting used to, but we love the way it turned out.”

Project Manager Don Erickson ’76 and Parton & Edwards Construction worked closely with city officials, who streamlined the permitting process. The floor plans of the new homes are identical to the old ones, with structural, electrical and wildfire code upgrades. The 27 homes that survived the fire now have new fire-resistant windows and finish plaster as well. “This was a special project because I have so many connections with the Westmont community,” Erickson says. “Working in this environment was different as people were grateful, and that is not the norm. It was a nice gift.”

Now that the homes are done, crews are removing blackened vegetation, restoring native landscaping, replacing irrigation and planting a citrus tree grove.

The Las Barrancas Homeowners Association has agreed to install photovoltaic panels on the roofs of 40 homes, the largest residential solar project in the city. One home already had panels. These photovoltaic panels convert solar radiation into direct current electricity. The new homes were prepared for the panels during reconstruction, and the others are being retrofitted with brackets. Russell Smelley, association president, says it was an important environmental step for the community. “People like the green nature of the project,” he says. “In a year the electric company will begin paying people for the solar energy. We wanted to do a great project for the whole neighborhood.”

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