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Torcon Completes Award-Winning Campus Renovation

Villanova University launched the Transformation of the Campus Landscape initiative as part of the University Strategic Plan and Campus Master Plan.  The goal of this three-phase, $22.5 million project was to modify the layout of the campus grounds to improve the quality of life for Villanova community members and enhance the visitor experience.

Torcon provided preconstruction and construction phase services for all three phases of this complex project.  We worked closely with the University to implement the program over three consecutive summers, while ensuring a clean, safe environment. Torcon collaborated with architects Mark B. Thompson Associates and a team of dedicated, locally-based subcontractors on the project. Many of the campus’ innermost roadways have been permanently closed, green spaces have been added, and access has been improved for people of different mobility needs.   Over 500,000 brick pavers were utilized to create a highly integrated, vehicle-free, and pedestrian-friendly campus for Villanova. 
A wide-range of upgrades took place over the three-year period, including:

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    A multi-phased augmentation and replacement of the campus infrastructure.  Nine campus buildings, including Connelly Center; Kennedy, Corrigan, and Dougherty Halls; the Sullivan-Sheehan Quad; and the Alumni Hall, had services installed or replaced, necessitating multiple and multi-phased shutdowns.  All of the water systems (storm, sanitary, domestic water) were replaced and extended on campus. A new sanitary connection into the township system was accomplished on the main access road to the campus.  Natural gas piping was replaced to the main cafeterias as well as several buildings.  Most challenging was the replacement and extension of the campus-wide steam system.  This loop system, with a central manhole distribution center, was required to stay active in all months to service domestic hot water on the campus and heat to the Monastery. With months of planning, this switchover was completed in one 8-hour period.

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    Torcon supervised over 30 transplants within the campus.  The largest and most impressive transplant was of the 60’ tall Dawn Redwood tree a mere 50 yards from the Kennedy area.  This transplant took months of planning and preparation of the tree routes.  The relocation team tunneled under the tree to support it with a mat of steel piping.  The tree and root ball, measuring 30’ x 30’, was then loaded onto a skid and pulled into final position. The steel pipe mat remains as support under this thriving tree.

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    The removal of stairs and sidewalks at the plaza outside Connelly Center. New pathways, stairs, handicap-accessible ramps, planters and new plantings were added, along with an outdoor seating area. Convenient access to Connelly Center and Vasey Hall is now provided at all levels.  The walkways, stairs and patios are surrounded by custom bronze railings, large planters and set with benches and tables.  This area has become more than a pathway with inviting gathering areas, creative lighting and areas of shade provided by indigenous trees and plantings.  A detention basin was also installed underneath Connelly Circle, comprising 48” diameter pipe buried in stone. 

  • At the Sullivan-Sheehan Quad, new pavers were installed along with granite benches, planters, and other seating. The Quad is a well-traveled pathway between two of Villanova’s largest residence halls, and links Connelly Plaza to the Bartley Hall School of Business.  Two massive detention basins are still intact under the Quad with a permeable paver walkway over them.  Crushed stone was used in the paver joints to allow water to drain into the existing stormwater recharge bed located below. 
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    A network of paths was removed to create an open campus green for relaxing. One of the campus’ iconic statues, The Awakening, also called the “Oreo”, was relocated to anchor the grass ellipse near Kennedy Hall.  Students can look from the east end of the main campus and see the “Oreo” statue standing in what has already become the hub of the campus with shaded seating areas for socializing.  A landscaped terrace was also added outside Dougherty Hall, the main campus dining hall, for outdoor seating.

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    The effort to add campus green space included a new Grotto constructed between St. Rita and Austin Halls using all new rubble stone, limestone, mahogany, granite, bluestone, and rails. The statue of Our Lady of Good Counsel and an altar were given a new home in this small amphitheater setting.  Specially designed “moonlighting” provides consistent lighting for enjoyment of the space before dawn and after dusk. The limestone archway is topped with a mahogany trellis and the landscaping is dominated by rose bushes, creating a feeling of privacy on this busy campus.

  • New pathways and a new fountain were installed at the Alumni Hall Quad. The landscaping and pathways in the Alumni Quad were revised to provide a more formal setting for the Freshmen welcoming mass and events surrounding graduation.

Torcon’s work on this challenging project includes a mix of both historic and recent architecture and has produced a campus core that is more accessible, pedestrian friendly and aesthetically beautiful.  The campus still retains the unique qualities and traditional identity of Villanova University.  

In 2014, the project was selected by the General Building Contractors Association of Philadelphia in its annual Construction Excellence awards. Villanova’s Transformation of the Campus Landscape was first place winner in the “Best Green Building Project " category. This award recognizes a project that demonstrates successful application of sustainable practices, such as innovative and cutting-edge, high performance design, energy and water efficiency, and use of environmentally friendly building products.