West Bank plaza gets makeover, new library

Nathan Whalen

Pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the Washington Avenue Bridge are running into some heavy congestion.
Hoping to transform the West Bank plaza from a “barren wasteland of concrete,” the University is renovating the area between Blegen and Anderson halls, said Gayle Gedstad, Parking and Transportation Services project manager.
New steps, handrails, lighting and planters are being added to make the plaza more liveable, Gedstad said.
“It was pretty ugly to me before, and I’m glad to see they’re doing something to it,” said Brian Bernwik, a senior in health and wellness.
Despite having only one passage to and from the bridge, Facilities Management hasn’t heard any complaints of a bottleneck, said Bill O’Neill, West Bank facilities manager.
Officials said they are trying to complete the construction of the south part of the plaza by Oct. 15 — about two weeks ahead of schedule.
The north section of the plaza will be complete about a month later, around the time the Andersen Library is scheduled to be completed.
Another facet of the project is waterproofing the plaza, which the University must do before the city begins painting the Washington Avenue Bridge next summer, Gedstad said.
Facilities Management passed out flyers on the first day of class to inform students about the West Bank construction.
Although a phone number was included on the flyer, Gedstad said he hasn’t had one call about the renovation.
However, some students have said they don’t know what kind of construction is taking place on the West Bank.
“It would be a lot cooler if we knew what was going on,” said Michael Petersen, a senior in political science. “I have no problem with it if it will make a difference.”
Other students would have liked the construction to be completed before school started.
“I wish they would have gotten it done during the summer,” said Jeremy Goss, a College of Liberal Arts junior.
Officials said it was difficult to finish the project before school started because of the switch to semesters.
“It was impossible to get that done in the shortened construction season,” Gedstad said.
O’Neill said Facilities Management has added more bike racks as well as posting signs at the west end of the Washington Avenue Bridge asking bicyclists to walk their bikes by Anderson Hall.

Nathan Whalen covers facilities and construction and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3237.