Lehigh’s Business Innovation Building is set to finish construction on March 3 and will begin hosting classes after spring break.
Construction on the building started in April 2021. It was originally projected to be completed in November 2022 and open for classes in January 2023.
Georgette Phillips, dean of the College of Business, said the leading cause of the delay was the environmentally sustainable doors the university purchased. The doors are made out of sustainably sourced wood, and supply chain issues pushed back the delivery date.
The university eventually switched to alternative doors so they could open the building — something Phillips said was disappointing.
“(It was) important to me and the university to build (the building) in an environmentally responsible manner,” Phillips said.
Another reason for the delay, she said, was that all of the furniture for the “in the round” classroom arrived broken, so they had to wait for replacements.
She said the doors were the primary issue, and the last of the non-environmentally sourced doors arrived two weeks ago.
Due to the delay in opening the building, the College of Business faced a shortage of classroom space, limiting the number of spots available in certain courses. However, Phillips said moving classes into the new building this semester would not fix the issue, as it will be too late for new students to register.
It will, however, give professors a chance to get used to the new technology in what Phillips calls a “learning building.”
This technology includes hybrid classrooms, which will better accommodate online learning and hosting remote speakers. The building also has a stock ticker, visible from outside the building, and a financial services lab.
The construction delays have affected students who live in off-campus housing near the construction.
Juliette Donovan, ‘23, said she moved into a house on Van Buren Street before the 2022 fall semester under the assumption that the construction would be finished in October 2022.
Last semester, Donovan said the construction narrowed the street so that she and her roommates were unable to park in their garage. She was directed by the project’s construction company, Quadratus Construction, to reach out to the university to try to secure parking spaces.
“It wasn’t like they were nice to give them to us — we had to reach out to (Lehigh),” Donovan said.
The university ended up giving her and her roommates parking spaces in the Zoellner parking garage.
Phillips said they attempted to minimize the inconvenience posed by the construction as much as possible, but they could not allow people to be in harm’s way.
“We’re sorry for the inconvenience,” Phillips said. “It’s over now. You can drive in that alley.”
Brooke Bisceglia, ‘23, who has lived on Van Buren Street for two years, said she received updates about the construction and road closures through her landlord, who got them from the university.
“There’s definitely been an effort on the university’s part to keep us updated,” Bisceglia said.
She said there was a long battle between Fifth Street Properties, who owns the house she rents, and the university about the safety of the residents.
Donovan said she feared something from the construction site would fall on her because the street was so narrow.
“You’d be walking, able to touch the house and the fence on the other side of you, while they’re doing construction just over the fence,” Donovan said. “It definitely felt like a safety hazard.”
James Byszewski, a managing partner of Fifth Street Capital Partners, said he did not receive any communication from the university regarding “safety protocols,” however, he is unable to confirm if anything was ever sent by the university or received by anyone else.
“This project cannot be done soon enough,” Byszewski said. “I think we all would agree — construction managers, tenants, property owners, university officials, everybody.”