Saint Joseph’s University Magazine | Fall 2019

Envisioning a Connected Campus

Meaghan Resta

The University presents a bold vision for a future campus. Already underway, the plan optimizes the campus’ urban and suburban footprint and features an academic expansion; contemporized athletic and wellness facilities; and enhanced recreational, residential, pedestrian and green spaces to enrich the total student experience.

An aerial rendering of Saint Joseph's future campus.

Ask a varied group of alumni to describe Saint Joseph’s campus, and the answers will be anything but consistent. Graduates from the 1960s will remember the wall that separated Campion Student Center and Francis A. Drexel Library from the Margaret Gest estate. Students from the 1980s will tell you about a parking lot that is now Mandeville Hall. Even a turn-of-the-millennium alumna will remember that the land beyond the McShain Hall driveway was the campus of Episcopal Academy.

Since its arrival on Hawk Hill in 1927, Saint Joseph’s has transformed itself and the community around it countless times. In recent decades, the University has capitalized on timely opportunities to expand its reach at a steady pace, nearly doubling its grounds to 125 acres with the addition of the Maguire Campus and Barnes’ property in Lower Merion, and the Maguire Wolfington Welcome Center in Philadelphia. Uniquely positioned along City Avenue, the University intersects vibrant urban neighborhoods and historic suburban properties, offering students the best of both worlds. Interestingly, while the University’s original location was entirely in Philadelphia, the campus’ acreage in Merion today outnumbers that on the city side.

An Evolution With Urgency

Now, a new plan has taken shape to once again re-form the face of the University. In order to meet the evolving needs of today’s students, Saint Joseph’s must strategically maximize and modernize its facilities. And, according to University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., that strategic time has arrived.

“Our strategic plan, Thinking Anew, Acting Anew, challenges us to reimagine our academic enterprise and all aspects of our student experience. It is time to ensure that the physical plant is transformed in a way that it further supports those same goals, ”  Reed says.

The campus master plan, introduced in the last year, imagines a bold future for every facet of life at the University, from academic facilities to athletics fields to student spaces.

“Although some of the projects won’t be realized in the near future, there’s a sense of urgency here,” Reed continues. “We are committed to providing the best possible educational experience for our students. Higher education is not an inexpensive endeavor and if we are going to be asking people to make the investment — we have to be able to deliver on that.”

A Long-Term Vision in Motion

The University partnered with SASAKI Associates to conduct a campus assessment over the course of eight months to establish a framework for the future campus. They conducted site visits, stakeholder discussions with students, faculty and staff; space analysis and classroom utilization trends and interactive surveys.

The vision for a reimagined Saint Joseph’s includes projects in the Main Campus district and Maguire Campus district, a City Avenue pedestrian underpass and an athletics hub.

Timothy A. McGuriman, who has served as associate vice president for administrative services since 2016, explains that every aspect of the plan is interconnected. Each proposed project will be determined by sequencing, facility condition feasibility, and student and programmatic demand.

“This is a long-term plan in that it takes into account specific endeavors over the next 5-10 years and conceptual ideas that could be 20-25 years out,” McGuriman says. “It’s important that we approach this in a strategic way which enables us to react to opportunities that present themselves through the expansion of new programs.”

A Phased and Prioritized Approach

Reed describes the plan’s top priorities in waves, with the initial wave including a full renovation of O’Pake Recreation Center in the Maguire Campus district; an addition to Merion Hall for the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, a new student center and residential quad in the Main Campus district; the City Avenue pedestrian underpass at Cardinal Avenue; and renovations of athletic facilities.

Reed said the second and third wave of the plan anticipates renovating Paris Hall as the campus theater and a possible conversion of the Foley Campus Center to a dining or food court so the University would have a true satellite center.

A Focus on Modern Learning

The future campus also includes ongoing renovations of academic spaces to enhance the University’s teaching and learning experiences. The Kinney Center expansion is just one important academic enhancement, but classrooms will be upgraded, laboratories modernized and study and lecture spaces enhanced.

A History of Building

The Barbelin tower under construction.
Scaffolding surrounds the Barbelin tower during construction in the 1920s.

1851 - A gathering of young men in September at St. Joseph’s Church on Willings Alley marks Saint Joseph’s beginning.

1922 - Saint Joseph’s begins an ambitious campaign and finds a new home on 23 acres on City Avenue, giving rise to Barbelin Hall and its iconic bell tower.

1943 - Saint Joseph’s acquires adjacent homes, converting them to the campus’ first student residences.

1960s - Saint Joseph’s continues to grow with the addition of new student residences, Bellarmine Hall, Drexel Library and Campion Student Center.

1980-2000 - Saint Joseph’s shifts from a commuter school to a residential institution, welcoming larger classes and expanding its full-time faculty.

2000-2008 - A series of capital improvements begins to transform the campus. The University acquires the adjacent 38-acre Episcopal Academy in Merion. Hawks’ Landing also opens.

2010-2014 - Impactful projects include: the Post Learning Commons addition to Drexel Library and Villiger Residence Hall. The University acquires the former 8.9-acre Cardinal’s Residence property, which transforms into the Maguire Wolfington Welcome Center.

2018 - A partnership is reached with the Barnes Foundation for the future stewardship of the Barnes Arboretum at Saint Joseph’s University.

2019 - A new campus master plan is launched.

“The facilities in which our students learn and interact are an integral component of our academic offerings,” Reed adds. “We routinely and continuously upgrade our classrooms and labs in order to meet the needs of our faculty and the ever-changing learning styles and expectations of our students.”

A rendering of a new campus building

Maguire Campus District: With greater access to this part of campus from surrounding areas, the plan also calls for a renovated wellness and recreation center with improved spaces for fitness and activities; an expansion of the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, improved parking and potential for additional academic buildings.

A Walkable Campus

In addition, the University plans to improve the flow of pedestrians throughout campus by creating more walkways, consolidating parking and creating two additional parking garages.

Reed is most excited about the pedestrian underpass and the related parts of the plan that connect the campus together.

“We’re a pedestrian campus and yet some of our most commonly traveled areas on campus don’t reflect that as well as they should,” Reed says. “Some of our infrastructure — whether that is parking garages, the need for an underpass to cross City Avenue or regular walkways throughout campus need to accommodate the students, faculty and staff of Saint Joseph’s today and in the future.”

A rendering of the underpass that crosses under City Ave.

City Avenue Pedestrian Underpass: With the construction of an underpass across City Avenue, the two hearts of campus will be connected allowing for safe and efficient navigation around campus.

A Fully Transformed Student Experience

Another way the plan intends to transform the student experience is by creating a student center that supports learning and engagement, and improving and modernizing residence halls.

“We have an incredibly vibrant student experience on campus — active organizations, athletics, Campus Ministry — all the co-curricular programs and activities, but it’s glaring that a lot of those activities are lacking space or they are making do in suboptimal space,” Reed explains. “The recreation center would provide students with health and wellness opportunities, which is incredibly important for the mind, body and soul of Jesuit education.”

Sweeney Field is transformed with bleachers on the side.

Athletics Hub: Fans and spectators will benefit from greater viewing experiences on the Quinn track and Sweeney field. Facilities in Hagan Arena will be upgraded to provide modern student athletes with the fitness, nutrition and conditioning they require to perform at their best.

A Plan of Action

Work has already begun to realize part of the plan, according to McGuriman. He says the University has taken the first steps to rendering and conceptualizing the renovations to O’Pake, and has also begun to investigate the feasibility of the underpass. Saint Joseph’s recently released an RFP to engage an executive architectural firm to help the University bring all the projects in the initial wave to further development through schematic design, adds McGuriman.

“There’s been a lot of excitement generated by the opportunities presented in this bold and visionary plan and we are eager to get started with the first phase,” McGuriman says.

The plan promises unlimited possibilities for the University’s future, but how the plan will unfold will be determined by student demand, academic needs, logistics and financial support.

“The priorities of this plan will be supported primarily through philanthropy. We are grateful to our alumni, parents and friends who have generously contributed to making SJU what it is today, and we look forward to that continued support as we look to further enhance SJU’s mission in care of our students, their families, our faculty and staff, and the surrounding community,” explains Reed.

“This plan is the next logical step in SJU’s development. We pride ourselves on providing a comprehensive and total educational experience for our students. To that end, we need to ensure that our buildings and facilities support that in the best way possible.”

An aerial view of the campus entryway.

Main Campus District: The master plan aims to transform the front door to the University’s main campus. Prospective students and visitors will enter through the historic Maguire Wolfington Welcome Center and find a newly developed residential quad and a state-of-the-art student center.