NASHUA — Rivier University is planning a $4 million renovation project that will alter the look of the 70-acre campus that is highly visible on Nashua's South Main Street.
"We have an enormous opportunity to transform our own campus. The university has one time to make a first impression, so that is the motivation behind this initiative," said Sister Paula Marie Buley, president of Rivier.
Currently, Buley said the campus environment does not adequately reflect the quality of the university's academic programs. With some building improvements and a better campus entrance, she believes the university will better portray its resources and mission to transform hearts and minds.
Rivier has dubbed the renovation the Gateway Projects, which includes eight separate projects designed to improve parking, handicap access, signage and landscape upgrades to allow better flow throughout walkways and buildings.
"This will also create a central focus to the campus, and provide a place for community engagement. It will represent what all great campuses have — a center," Buley said this week.
The university's Board of Trustees approved a new campus master plan in December 2012, however the specifics of the document are just now coming to light as artist's renderings have been posted on the university's website, and construction at the Resurrection Chapel has already begun.
The designs have been completed by Derck & Edson Associates of Pennsylvania. Buley stressed that these are not pie-in-the-sky ideas, but are actual plans that will be implemented in phases throughout the next three to five years.
"This is going to happen. It is very real, and we are thrilled to be a part of this. Our alumni have been enormously supportive, and have just fallen in love with these plans," she said.
The $4 million renovation project is being funded in part from generous donor investors and from restricted reserves, according to Buley.
Three initial projects will jumpstart the campus makeover. First, Resurrection Chapel is in the process of receiving a new exterior facade and interior renovations. In conjunction with these efforts are improvements to the Campus Quad to increase functionality by adding a fireplace and seating that will encourage student engagement, said Buley.
"The Chapel Quad is really a gateway to faith, and such an important place on campus," she said. "Our tentative goal is to have the Chapel Quad finished in mid-summer (of 2014) and hopefully begin new signage and the Heritage Plaza even sooner in the spring," she said.
She stressed that the timeline for the projects is still tentative. A granite gateway entrance will be constructed along South Main Street to make the university more visually appealing, according to Buley, who said some of the focus will be on the rotary where Main Street intersects with Daniel Webster Highway.
Heritage Plaza will be a new area on campus dedicated to the university's Catholic heritage, and will include a sculpture of Blessed Anne-Marie Rivier, founder of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. The plaza will provide easier access to the Campus Quad, explained Buley.
She is optimistic that the improvements at Heritage Plaza will be completed by August 2015, which is when Rivier University will host the international conference of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary.
Other renovation efforts will take place at Madeleine Hall, where a new entrance and parking will be constructed, along with a connection between the enrollment and admissions offices. Landscape upgrades are also planned at the campus' Sunken Garden area.
"These projects are going to be our gateways to learning and engagement and enhanced opportunities for staff and students," said Buley.