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Park could memorialize Wetzel

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Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 11:35 am

A few years from now, students in North Quad might be able to enjoy open space and attractive scenery.

This is according to an artist’s rendering of Wetzel Hall Park from Farnsworth Group, a national architectural firm. If completed, the park would occupy the entire area where Wetzel Hall used to reside.

The biggest feature of the drawing is the Bluff’s Edge Council Ring, centered in the middle of the park and located where students used to enter Wetzel Hall.

“It’s kind of like what you would see at the speaker circle out behind the University Union,” said A.J.

Lutz, director of residential administration.

“It would be that kind of an area where there’s benches and some trees.”

Wetzel Hall Park might also feature trails and an open space for recreational use.

“It’s a pretty large blueprint,” Lutz said. “The open lawn for the recreational areas kind of look like the school spaces we have near Thompson and Higgins halls right now where people can go out and throw ball or whatever.”

He added that the park might also keep the basketball court that still stands in North Quad. However, the park is not a sure thing because the project is dependent on private donations from alumni, especially those who used to live in the demolished building.

“As you know with the appropriated (budget), there’s not much money for this kind of stuff,” Lutz said. “So, something like this would have to be majority of private donations.”

Western is currently accepting donations for the park, and alumni may buy a park bench with a $2,000 contribution or a tree with a $650 donation.

“It’s important for us to do something there,” Lutz said. “We

have to do something there.”

Additionally, future students might also expect better traffic flow on Charles Street through North Quad.

“I think with the opening up of Charles Street through that area it will allow a lot more people access to the corner where Wetzel was at and allow for that area to become something much nicer than what it is right now,” said

Lauren Williams of Smithgroup JJR, an architectural firm that is help planning Western’s next Master Plan strategy.

“The thought there is that it became apparent that Western Avenue has significant traffic on it that a lot of people were hoping could be reduced somewhat,”  Williams explained. “I think the extension of Charles Street will really help alleviate some of that.” However, none of the plans are final.

“This is a good scenario of what can be done,” Lutz said regarding the park. “Is this what’s going to happen? No, especially not right now. Could it happen? Yes; it’s kind of one of those scenarios.”

As for now, North Quad residents will have to cope with bulldozers, dump trucks and large debris in the aftermath of Wetzel Hall’s destruction, at least until mid-October.

According to Lutz, the construction crew is ahead of schedule and should wrap up in six to eight weeks.

By mid-October, a new bus stop will also be built across Bayliss and Henninger halls.

Lutz said the new bus stop will start taking shape as early as the next couple of weeks.

“We’re using parts of the limestone of the building I believe, or parts of the slate of the building actually, to help build the bus stops,” he said. “Most of that material is being put back to work.”

But it will be another six months until Lutz might have a better idea what will happen with the rest of the area.

“The priority now is to get Wetzel re-graded and get the building and rubble removed, and then (complete) the bus stop,” he said.

With Western still on the drawing board, Williams and Smithgroup JJR will visit Western Sept. 12-14 to come up with more ideas for the Wetzel Hall area and the rest of the campus.

In fact, Williams and her firm will host a student focus group lunch at noon in the Union Capitol Room on Friday, Sept. 14.

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