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Renovated Coburn Hall Wins Award for Accessibility

South Campus Building Recognized by Boston Society for Architecture

A group of people applaud after cutting the ribbon in front of a building Photo by Tory Wesnofske
UMass Lowell cut the ceremonial ribbon last fall on the renovated Coburn Hall, which has been recognized by the Boston Society for Architecture with an Accessible Design Award.

By Ed Brennen

UMass Lowell’s recent renovation of the oldest academic building on campus, Coburn Hall, is now an award-winning one.

The university has received an Accessible Design Award from the Boston Society for Architecture for Coburn Hall, which reopened in 2020 after undergoing an extensive $47 million renovation and restoration.

Led by CBT Architects, the project included the creation of a universal path at the front of the South Campus building, which originally opened in 1897 as the home of the Lowell Normal School.

The project also included the addition of an accessible rear entrance and the installation of an elevator serving all four floors of the building, which is now home to the School of Education, the Psychology Department and 12 technology-enhanced classrooms.

While UML and its Facilities Management Department have received a number of awards in recent years for capital projects, Executive Director of Planning, Design and Construction Adam Baacke says this one is particularly significant.

“It celebrates what might be considered the crowning achievement in a decade-long commitment to make every major campus building accessible to people of all abilities,” says Baacke, who notes that before the Coburn renovation, it was difficult for a person with mobility restrictions to enter the building. 

“Now two instructional floors have universally accessible doors at grade, and sensitive renovations and additions have made the rest of the facility seamlessly navigable for any user,” he says. 

Baacke adds that it was particularly challenging to address accessibility at Coburn while also preserving the historic qualities that make it the signature structure on South Campus. 

“The design team, led by CBT, did a fantastic job blending these goals,” he says. “It is great to see the Boston Society for Architecture recognizing their achievement.”

The Boston Society for Architecture will present the honor at its awards gala on Jan. 27 in Boston. Also receiving an Accessible Design Award is the recently completed Lowell Justice Center.