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New Cumnock Courtyard Transforms Heart of North Campus

Summer Facilities Work Also Includes Renovated Second, Third Floors at Olsen Hall

A view of the new Cumnock Courtyard outside of Perry Hall Photo by Ed Brennen
The new Cumnock Courtyard on North Campus gives students an open and inviting spot to spend time before and after class.

By Ed Brennen

Of the nearly 100 campus improvement projects that Facilities Management worked on over the summer, the one most likely to stop students in their tracks is the new Cumnock Courtyard.

The university has transformed the former parking lot between Cumnock, Ball and Perry halls into an inviting outdoor plaza with accessible walkways connecting the North Campus buildings. Students can now relax on courtyard benches between classes, surrounded by a well-manicured landscape of freshly planted trees and shrubs.

The space in front of Cumnock Hall, along University Avenue, has also been redesigned as part of the $2.2 million courtyard project, with new sidewalks added to better direct the flow of foot traffic through the area.

“It really changes the whole feeling there, right in the center of North Campus,” says Executive Director of Planning, Design and Construction Adam Baacke. “We think it’s going to be transformative for students.”

A professor walks down the hall on third floor of Olsen Photo by Ed Brennen
The new air handling system on the third floor of Olsen Hall runs along the ceiling of the central hallway, which reduces noise in the classrooms.

Across Riverside Street at Olsen Hall, $10 million in renovations were completed on the second and third floors, which were vacated last year when the Computer Science Department moved to Dandeneau Hall.

Olsen’s third floor was completely gutted and rebuilt. It features 10 new classrooms (including two Technology Enhanced Active Learning classrooms) and breakout spaces for study and collaboration.

The second floor, meanwhile, was refreshed with efficient lighting and new finishes and is the new home of the Biology Department — which had previously been scattered over the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the building.

“The move to the second floor will help to create a more cohesive department, not only for faculty but also for our students,” says Assoc. Prof. Michael Graves, interim chair of the Biology Department. “As part of the renovation, we have been able to put together a nice meeting/work room for our students, something we lacked.”

A view of the elevator lobby on the third floor of Olsen Photo by Ed Brennen
The view coming out of the elevator on the third floor of Olsen Hall.

Baacke says the vacated space on the top three floors of Olsen can be used for future teaching and research labs, as well as for short-term office space for other departments.

In May, Alumni Hall reopened on North Campus after undergoing $2.3 million in renovations. The popular meeting space was modernized with new audio-visual equipment and lighting.

On South Campus, major renovation work continues on UML’s oldest academic building, Coburn Hall, which is scheduled to reopen in January as part of the university’s 125th anniversary celebration. Built in 1894 as the home of the Lowell Normal School, Coburn is undergoing $47 million in renovations. Work includes a four-story addition on the back of the building that will provide an accessible entry point. When completed, Coburn will be home to the College of Education and the Psychology Department.

A view inside the Coburn Hall renovations Photo by Ed Brennen
With an addition built on the back of Coburn Hall, the original exterior wall is being integrated into the interior design.

A quarter-mile down Broadway Street, beyond the UML softball field, work is underway on an astronomical observatory. The project, which is expected to be completed in November, will feature a 14-inch Celestron telescope housed inside the observatory's 16-foot dome. The telescope will be used by astronomy undergraduate students for research, as well as for public viewing nights.

Over on East Campus, major changes are in store across the intersection from University Crossing.

The abandoned apartment buildings that students pass each day at the corner of Pawtucket Street and University Avenue are scheduled to be demolished this fall, likely in October. In their place, the university is working with the city to construct a plaza overlooking the Northern Canal, which will provide more room for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

A view of the renovated Alumni Hall Photo by Ed Brennen
Renovations to Alumni Hall have made the meeting space brighter and more modern.

The university has also signed a 10-year lease on the building at 839 Merrimack Street, the former nursing home across the street from University Crossing. Renovations are currently underway inside the three-story building and are slated to be complete in December.

The Office of Residence Life and the Office of International Experiences and Study Abroad will move from UCrossing to the first floor of the building, which will also include four classrooms.

The university’s Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) program, led by Vice Provost Steve Tello, will occupy the second and third floors, as will the International Students and Scholars Office and the Navitas Global Student Success Program.