All ongoing campus construction projects — including the Health, Science and Technology building, as well as Singleton, Hitch and Maida houses — are paused indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An order was given by Gov. Tom Wolf on March 19 to shut down all non-essential businesses for an undetermined length of time. University Architect Brent Stringfellow said Lehigh ceased ongoing construction on March 23.
Stringfellow said inspections were completed of existing construction sites to make sure they were safe to stop working on. He said aside from regular inspections, there is no one on the construction sites right now.
Demi Lambadis, ‘21, is the head Gryphon of the new Singleton, Hitch and Maida houses. Since construction cannot be continued on the dorms, she said she is unsure whether the dorms will be finished for their expected opening in fall 2020.
“I don’t necessarily know if they’re going to pause (the construction) long enough for it to impact next year,” Lambadis said.
Stringfellow said there is some flexibility with the construction timeline, but as of now, there is no prediction of when construction may continue.
He said Facilities and Services was focused on ensuring the safety of current projects when the construction pause was announced, but they will soon work on developing scenarios for potential outcomes as a result of the pause.
“At this point, we’re really taking it day-by-day,” Stringfellow said. “Every day counts, but there is some cushion in the calendar.”
Lehigh is preparing for a number of scenarios for the new residential houses, said Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s director of media relations, in an email.
She said three scenarios may take place — one in which all three dorms open, another where only one or two may open, and a third where the Singleton, Hitch and Maida Houses may not open at all in time for the fall semester in August, as was originally planned.
As a result of the uncertainty, Friedman said Trembley Park will be used for fall 2020 housing, and will not be torn down as it was planned to be. First-year housing may be adjusted and SouthSide Commons can be used if needed, Friedman said.
The delay in the demolition of Trembley is the second such postponement — the first coming in October 2018, when the university effectively reversed its initial decision to tear the complex down before the 2019-2020 academic year.
Lambadis said Gryphons are not aware of these aforementioned scenarios yet, but said they will be flexible regardless of the situation.
“If it becomes more of reality that they might not be able to open, then they would have to do some movement,” Lambadis said.
Will Peracchio, ‘21, said he hopes there won’t be a delay in opening the new dorms to accomodate for the increasing size of the student body.
Peracchio is a Gryphon, and he said Gryphons have had residents in more than one building in the past, so if the opening of the new dorm doesn’t go as planned, it shouldn’t be an issue.
“It’s going to be interesting to see the housing situation because I know Lehigh is trying to expand the student body,” Peracchio said.
This past year’s first-year class was the largest ever, a 131-student increase from the year before. The growth is part of the university’s Path to Prominence, which in part calls for 1,000 more undergraduate students and 500 more graduate students over a 10-year period.
Projects that have not entered the construction phase are continuing to be worked on remotely. Stringfellow said the future College of Business expansion is still in the design phase, so administrative work, ordering and design are all still taking place with the project management team working remotely.