April 20, 2011

Construction near Savery and Kane: One plaza redone, one road still under way

The renovation of Savery Hall was completed in time for fall classes in 2009. Now money allocated for that project is paying for a new plaza between Savery and Raitt and a new road between Savery and Kane. The plaza was opened for use at the beginning of spring quarter, while the road is still under construction.

People enjoy the new benches on the plaza between Savery and Raitt Halls.

Mary Levin

People enjoy the new benches on the plaza between Savery and Raitt Halls.

The plaza was targeted for repair, according to University Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney, because of the uneven surface and the challenges it presented to universal access.  “Vendors and service vehicles would park in the plaza because it was easy access,” Kenney said. “You could drive right onto it from the lane behind Raitt Hall. So over a number of years there was a lot of differential settlement of the brick.”

That, she said, created many puddles when it rained and a tripping hazard with the uneven bricks.  So all of the bricks were removed and the area was regraded. Then the same bricks were reinstalled. Ramps were placed on both sides of the plaza, whereas before there was only a ramp on the Raitt side. The ramps are wider than the previous one.

The plaza also boasts new additions  —  four elm trees and eight sandstone benches. The trees, Kenney said, were added to provide shade and the benches to make the space more inviting.

“The plaza is a major point of confluence. You have all this pedestrian flow that funnels through here from Denny Yard to the quad,” Kenney said. “Its a significant place of circulation. So we thought we could take advantage of the renovation to create another moment of pause where you could have these breakout seating areas — especially between classes, it could be a place where you could run into somebody and pull over and have a conversation, sit down and enjoy the space.”

The benches, however, caused a significant delay in the project. Originally, Kenney said, they were to have a brick veneer face with a sandstone cap. “But as we stood out there we had this very red brick of the plaza and the tannish brick of the adjacent buildings. The brick we were looking at for the benches was an orange color, and we said this is just awful from a material composition point of view. So we decided to clad the benches entirely in sandstone.”

Unfortunately, that decision was made in late fall/early winter. And the Wilkeson Quarry, from which the stone was coming, is at the base of Mt. Rainier. The snow started coming and the quarry froze.

“We actually went out to the quarry because we wanted to understand why there was a delay, and they had a solid, four-inch layer of ice over the whole thing,” Kenney said.

There was nothing to do but wait for the thaw, which caused an overlap with the project on Saverys other end and made travel on the north end of campus a bit difficult. But the plaza is open now, and work on the Savery-Kane passage is proceeding.

That work is mainly about meeting ADA requirements by making the slope less steep and more even throughout, Kenney said.

In the original grading there was a large wall outside of Kane, and a level area by the door. Then the road dropped down rapidly. Not only that, but the area had a steep cross slope. ADA requires a slope in the direction of travel to be a maximum of 5 percent, which is a 1-foot drop over a 20-foot length, Kenney said. The rule for cross slope — the slope in the cross direction, perpendicular to the flow — is a maximum of 2 percent. It was probably four or five times that in a cross slope direction, Kenney said.

“This was also about improving safety for pedestrians,” she added. “Because of slope, vehicles and bicycles would get up to speed and presents conflicts with pedestrians, especially at class change when the area is flooded with people.  By bringing down the wall and making the grade more gradual, you open up the visibility and slow down the bikes.”

Workers had hoped to finish the project by the end of May, but ventilation problems in Kane Hall caused by the construction may delay it a bit.

The plan for both of these construction projects includes the installation of bollards to keep service trucks out of the area. Service vehicles will be able to come behind Raitt but not into the new plaza. And they will be able to come behind Savery but not on down the road to the edge of Red Square.

“Thats something were trying to implement throughout campus,” Kenney said. “Were trying to get our vendors to use the appropriate loading locations to bring materials into the buildings. Its really to give the pedestrian area back to the pedestrians.”