By early next year, the steel beams framing the new Annenberg Public Policy Center building will begin to rise along the 36th Street
walk on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Occupancy of the building, designed by noted Tokyo architect Fumihiko Maki, is now set for late summer 2009.
The building is a gift of the Annenberg Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, which have contributed a total of $41.5 million to the project, including $6 million earmarked for perpetual maintenance.
But before the innovative four-story glass and wood structure takes shape above ground, a complex underground construction project is required. When completed later this summer, infrastructure improvements – undertaken to coincide with the APPC construction – will ultimately service the new building plus13 adjacent structures on campus. Upgrades of electrical and telecommunications systems as well as gas and cooling supply lines will be made. Steam lines were improved last year.
This summer the 36th Street
walkway between Walnut Street
and Locust Walk will be closed and a boardwalk erected to route pedestrians away from the building site, occupied by the former Hillel House at 202 S. 36th Street
, which will be demolished. The boardwalk will remain in place for about two years.
What passersby will see initially will be a large trench that will contain two newred concrete duct banks and a gas line. The duct banks will carry power and telecommunications lines. A separate line for chiller water will be laid from Steinberg-Dietrich Hall. The Annenberg Public Policy Center basement will house a 13,200-volt transformer and circuitry that will step down power for the new building and the 13 nearby buildings. That power is coming via underground lines from the substation next to Pottruck, two blocks away on Walnut Street
Although the logistics are complicated, the infrastructure update is simplified by one fact: “I only had to dig one hole,” said Mike Swiszcz of Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services, who is overseeing the APPC project. But it will be a long one.
Because the cost of underground construction is high – especially in an old and densely built location like the Penn campus, one excavation is a real cost-saver. (The cost of the project will be spread among all the beneficiaries.)
The location itself may generate some surprises.
“Who knows what we’ll hit underground,” said Swiszcz, sitting in front of a detailed blueprint of above-ground landmarks and underground utilities. “There’s a subway down there. We know exactly where that is,” he said smiling. He’s not sure what he’ll find along Locust Walk, however. Most of it is underlain with trolley tracks paved over when it became a pedestrian avenue through campus.
The project will require crossing Walnut Street
. “Walnut is a nasty crossing,” said Swiszcz. The excavation will be very deep and will have to avoid a tangle of utilities already in place.
Swiszcz wants to mount a camera directed toward the new APPC building to record its progress by snapping a picture every three minutes over the course of construction. By September, Hillel House will be down; in October, a foundation will be underway; by December, the footings poured, and at the start of 2008, steel beams begin pointing skyward.