Griffin Center disrupts nearby residents

Zackary Willem

When Bob Schiff’s children were young, he used to take them fishing in Reflection Lake.

“Now you can hardly see the lake,” he said, “let alone get to it.”

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As residents on Farmington Drive go out to check their mail, they can also see the progress made on the university’s newest addition, the Griffin Center. Many of these residents are feeling the effect of an up close and personal construction process that has been going on since July 2014. Photo by Alyssa Smith/The Shield

The construction of the university’s Griffin Center now blocks his neighborhood’s view of the lake except for the cusp of the Liberal Arts Building.

Schiff has lived on Farmington Drive for 25 years and said the university hasn’t been clear on what’s been going on with the building.

“You know when you move to a dead end street and a forest and lake, you do kind of expect tranquility,” he said, “but all we got was a flyer in the mail telling us they were going to start construction in July.”

The construction hasn’t been exactly what the university seemed to promise, said Schiff.

“We were all told the tree line would be denser than what it is,” he said. “It’s obvious they cut down more than intended.”

Schiff said he looks forward to the construction’s finish.

“I hear hammers pounding every once in awhile, but I mean that’s just progress,” Schiff said.“There is more noise, but it doesn’t bother me anymore–that traffic on McDowell Road.”

Rick Robertson, a five-year residence of Farmington Drive, said he is concerned with the sudden increase in traffic the new building will bring.

“Before construction it was quiet with little to no traffic. I haven’t noticed much of a difference but it’s early and it still concerns me,” Robertson said.

The university had a fence erected to separate the residence from the construction zone, but the exponential loss of trees enraged some residents closest to the lake.

“When the university first notified us, every one of us voiced our opinion, but the university basically said, ‘It’s going to happen.’” Robertson said.

A petition in the neighborhood was started in opposition of construction, but it couldn’t gain any real traction.

“It’s the university’s property. They can do whatever they want with it. I’m just thankful I don’t live that close to the construction,” Robertson said.

Without the addition of the fence only about twenty feet separate the construction zone from the closest residence home.

Construction hours end at about 4-5 p.m. so residents haven’t found any problems with sleeping during the evening.

“I can understand how the people down there feel about the construction, and honestly I would feel the same way if I were down there. But I’m so far removed it doesn’t affect me as much as it does the others,” Schiff said.

Groundbreaking for construction took place July 21t, 2014, the start of a 24 month project.

Bob Griffin, chair of the board at Escalade Sports Inc., donated a lump sum of $5 million to fund the university’s construction of its newest building the Griffin Center.

“The Griffin Center will be a new addition to campus,” said Steve Bridges, the vice president for Finance and Administration. “The building will be used largely for alumni and committee groups as well as the Board of Trustees.”

The building will be 2,400 square feet total with the largest room accommodating up to 50 people.

“The new center was listed as a part of the university’s capital campaign wish list,” Bridges said. “The campaign is to help raise money for scholarships, and the addition of a new building will give the campus its much needed meeting space.”

Construction didn’t actually start until mid-winter due to issues with an uneven foundation.

“The foundation issue being half stone and half dirt really set the project back, then the wet months of January and February further hindered construction,” Bridges said.

The project was originally predicted to span 18 months but minor setbacks increased the expected construction time to about 24 months.

The center will be connected to the campus via a roadway that will be named the Griffin Way. $750,000 of the original donation will be used in the construction of the road.

Though the new building will provide the campus with much needed space, construction is met with steely opposition from the residents of Farmington Drive, the road right behind the Griffin Center.

Though the beauty of the area is partially lost because of the removal of many trees near the lake, Bridges said he hopes that the addition of the building will actually add to the overall beauty of the university campus.

“It’s a nice distance from campus,” he said, “and provides students with a beautiful view of Reflection Lake.”

Gabi Wy contributed to this story.