The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 5, 2000
September 5, 2000
VOL. 30, NO. 1


Great Excavations Slogs Ahead Despite Rain

Summer weather hampers progress, but a year-end finish is still anticipated

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The garden tomato and Homewood's Great Excavations project have something in common: Both would be in better shape if not for all this rain. Yet despite several setbacks due to inclement weather, the lion's share of open space work scheduled for this summer has been accomplished, and the ambitious project is still on track to be completed by year-end.

But don't throw away those mud shoes just yet.

Excavation work continues in several areas that master planners had hoped to have completed, despite extended shifts and six (sometimes seven)-day work weeks that became the norm as excavation and landscape crews tried to remain on schedule.

Dennis O'Shea, executive director of the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, said that taking into account what the crews had to contend with, the progress made since the project began in late May is "tremendous."

Brick and marble walkways, stately lampposts and inviting benches are in place on the lower quad.

The Baltimore area received twice the average amount of rainfall this summer, and of the project's first 44 workdays, 11 were complete rainouts. Unexpected issues, such as underground utilities not being where they were supposed to be, also created delays.

"The contracting teams have been remarkably resilient," O'Shea said. "Any time it would rain, most of the work done that day would be washed away. Yet the very next morning, they would be right back at it, working again into nightfall."

This diligence is spurring the transformation of the campus into a more pedestrian friendly and attractive place, adorned with new brick and marble walkways, lush sod and decorative lampposts.

Here are the latest details on the big makeover.

Portions of campus completed or near completion are the upper and lower quads and Decker Garden. In addition to the installation of sod, brick and lighting fixtures in these areas, hand rails have been painted, marble and stone steps washed and storm water management lines and irrigation systems put in place. The landscape also now features new benches and bicycle racks, with new trash receptacles on the way.

Two tracts of campus expected to be completed by this time were the plaza in front of the AMRs and Dunning plaza (between Dunning, Macaulay, Remsen and Mergenthaler/Jenkins halls). Work on the AMR plaza is under way, and Dunning plaza construction will commence by mid-month.

To allow students to travel to and from classes, temporary construction "corridors" from the three AMR residence halls to the upper and lower quads will be provided, the paths shifted as dictated by the construction.

Landscaping in the immediate vicinity of Homewood House Museum was recently begun. The nearby section of Goodnow Drive will remain open until contractors are ready to close the entire road from Charles Street to University Parkway, at which time Goodnow will be torn up and paved with bricks and granite cobbles.

Scheduled to begin later this month is work on the White walk, from the White Athletic Center south to the MSE Library; the north walk, connecting the Bloomberg Center to Mudd Hall and the AMRs; and the University Parkway entrance.

Construction on the university entrance from Charles Street, with a new loop road encircling the Beach, will begin by mid-October.

The entire Great Excavations project, other than plantings, is expected to conclude by the end of December. New trees and shrubs will arrive in the spring.

Still to come are new signage throughout the university and information kiosks and guard houses at each entrance point.

Tom McCracken, vice president of Henry H. Lewis Contractors, construction manager of the Great Excavations project, said it has certainly been a fascinating and unusual job so far.

"Because of the fast-paced nature of this project, there has been a lot of cooperation on the part of our subcontractors and all the various teams working here," McCracken said. "The staff, faculty and students who were here this summer also did a great job of putting up with us."

Elsewhere on campus, construction of the new student arts center on Charles Street continues, and the building is on track to be ready for use come the spring 2001 semester. Significant projects just getting started are Clark Hall, adjacent to Garland Field, and the student recreation center, connected to the Athletic Center.

O'Shea said that while work continues, those walking on campus are reminded to pay attention to temporary fencing and partitions so as not to wander into construction sites.

Further updates on the status of the open space project can be found online at or by subscribing to the GX listserve. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to

A few things to keep in mind...

As the quads at Homewood reopen to pedestrians, it's a good time to remind everyone that GX is about more than just switching from asphalt to brick and marble. It's also about creating a more serene, pedestrian-friendly environment. It's about creating order from the chaos that has grown up over the years in making deliveries to offices on campus.

Except where necessary to accommodate emergency vehicles, therefore, the new walks are being built for pedestrians only. Cars, trucks and heavy equipment will damage or destroy them.

Bollards will soon be installed to block access to the upper and lower quads by anything other than the very light "micro vehicles" used by Security, Maintenance and Housekeeping. In the meantime, pallets of brick are in place to keep vehicles away.

New campuswide shipping and receiving procedures are in place and have been widely publicized. For information about them, see and

For shipping/receiving questions that aren't answered at these sites, please contact Judy Zimmer in Purchasing Services at 410-516-8383 or Lt. Mark Carter in Security at 410-516-4600.