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August 2008

Common ground

When you return to campus, get ready to be greeted by changes to Elliott University Center's “front yard.”

The west lawn of the EUC is being turned into an informal commons area with new plantings, wooden benches, seating walls and sculptures. The transformation was made possible by a gift from Randall Kaplan and Kathy Manning. Kaplan Commons will be dedicated Sept. 27, during FallFest 2008.

“I feel that a campus and the aesthetics of a campus lay the foundation for how people feel about the community they are living in,” Kaplan said when the project was announced. “The public spaces of a university should be inviting for students to hang out together and for faculty and students to talk.”

In the center of the three-acre commons, the concrete sidewalks have already been replaced with brick pavers. The area eventually will display sculptures by faculty members.

In the past weeks, workers delivered bushes and trees as well as built up planting beds with extra topsoil. Chris Fay, Facilities Operations grounds superintendent, noted that in most places the lawn's topsoil is only 2-3 inches deep. Below that lies a hard layer of gravel from the parking lot that was once there — but those several inches of topsoil are plenty deep for the well-drained bermudagrass.

Workers have added pre-cast concrete capstones to the low brick walls. The commons design will make the area more welcoming while preserving swaths of the lawn's carefully tended turf.

“There'll be quite a bit of additional seating,” said Bruce Michaels, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, “but we're still going to be maintaining space for informal activity, whether it's throwing a Frisbee or kicking a soccer ball.”





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