Building the New Nova


Bowstring Studio

Courtesy of Villanova University

Jack Judge

The University has experienced a drastic physical transformation to its campus in recent months. Whether it is the immense construction currently underway on Lancaster Avenue or it is the fences that quarantine Mendel Field, people will have to wait just a little longer to enjoy the fruits of this quite literal labor. However, perspective is critical to understanding how much work and time has been spent planning to integrate these new additions to the University.

The main projects that are nearing completion are The Finneran Pavilion, the Lancaster Avenue Residences, Mendel Field and the Performing Arts Center. The most recent addition to campus is the Lancaster Avenue Pedestrian Bridge. Since March 2018, the bridge has functioned as a safe way for people to cross from the Villanova Station on SEPTA’s Norristown High Speed Line to the newly renovated plaza in front of St. Thomas of Villanova Church. A new orchard lines the walk to the church and pillar caps that read “Villanova College” adorn the new design.

Currently, the closest project to completion is the Finneran Pavilion, which is scheduled to debut at Hoops Mania on Friday. Every seat, sign, fixture and floorboard was stripped clean in summer 2017. The new pavilion, which fans have already nicknamed “the Finn,” is named after William B. Finneran ’63 VSB, whose $22.6 million leadership gift was vital to the $65 million project. Hoops Mania will be the first chance for people to enjoy what the University hopes to be the best college basketball experience in the country. Many will notice the new glass entrance to the Finneran Pavilion, as well as a gathering area outside for fans to hang out before games. There is new seating, as well as a different layout to the arena. However, the seating capacity will not change after the renovations are complete. This is due to a number of complicating factors such as zoning ordinances and cost.

According to the Finneran Pavilion’s official website, “increasing seating capacity was considered, but a full teardown and rebuild to add seating would cost well over $125 million. With all of the other University projects currently being undertaken, borrowing for this project is not feasible.”

The first game to be played in the Finn will be on Nov. 6 when men’s basketball faces Morgan State in their season opener.

Another major project that is coming along is The Lancaster Avenue Residences, also known as The Commons. The exteriors of the buildings have recently been decorated with stone in the collegiate gothic style, however, the interior of the building remains relatively sparse. Nonetheless, upperclassmen students will have the opportunity to live at The Commons starting in the Fall 2019 semester.

The complex will offer a variety of living options dispersed amongst six residence halls. These include four-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, single rooms and suite style living. In the new suite style living, four students share two, two-bedroom suites with a private bath and kitchenette. It is anticipated that there will be 1,135 beds for upperclass students, allowing 85 percent of undergraduates to live on campus.

Also featured in The Commons are a number of student-oriented offerings including two fitness centers similar to the Davis Fitness Center, community workspaces and outdoor courtyards. There will also be a market-style convenience store and a full-service restaurant that will be open to the community.

The Performing Arts Center offers not only a significant physical addition to the University but a cultural change as well. Scheduled to open in 2020, the Performing Arts Center will feature two main performance spaces: a 400-seat proscenium theater and a 200-seat courtyard theatre.

Additional spaces include a performance lab, classrooms, dance studio, music and theater rehearsal rooms, costume and scenery shops, a box office and multiple venues for special events.

This Performing Arts center will serve as a hub for people to cultivate the University’s arts community in a centralized location. Now, the University will have much more capacity to enhance opportunities for Villanova Theatre program, as well as other music, performance and dance activities.

Weather has complicated much of the construction with the state of Pennsylvania and greater Philadelphia region receiving double the typical amount of rainfall in the past year. Mendel Field, according to Robert Morro, Vice President for Facilities Management, has been impacted the most by the atypical weather.

Specifically, Morro cites two “cataclysmic” storms over the summer that resulted in a large amount of rain in a short period of time. As a result of the abnormal weather, the completion date for the Mendel Field project has been pushed back from November 2018 to December 2018. As the cold weather begins to creep in, the work conditions increase in difficulty, according to Morro.

With so much time being spent in the rendering and approval phases, Morro and Marilou Smith, Senior Project Manager in Facilities Management, both are moved by how these renderings now coming to life on campus.

“It is extremely gratifying and almost emotional,” Smith said. She continued to say that they are “dealing with so many different parts of these buildings and there is an issue every day that must be resolved.” With all of the meticulous attention that is required for completing these projects, Smith is excited to see all of the effort come to fruition.

Despite the improved look and feel of the University, University President Father Peter M. Donohue OSA, Ph.D. cited that practical matters were also a driving factor the new additions, such as housing. When he first became University President in 2006, Father Peter made a concerted effort to ensure that more students would be able to live on campus. While all students are not guaranteed housing, Father Peter places importance on having all four years living together on campus.

With the new housing additions, many forced triples will be eliminated and consequently much of the stress on the buildings will be mitigated.

Not only will the University improve as an academic institution as a result of these additions, the University will be elevated “mind, body and spirit,” according to Donohue, as the mantra of making a great place greater is fulfilled.

While the University is following the teachings of Augustine by literally deepening its foundations, only time will tell how high the structures will be once the construction projects are completed in 2019-2020.