Executive Director of University Design Mary Whelan is a USD alumna who graduated as an art major in 1986 and is familiar with USD’s Spanish Renaissance style. The latest project she has been involved in on campus is the Paseo de Colachis Project.
“I’ve seen a lot of the change [in the university] but I think the Princeton Review designation isn’t something that happened overnight,” Whelan said.
USD has had many construction changes, all of which aim to benefit the Torero community.
“Paseo de Colachis is the third major landscape project along Marian Way, realized by donor contributions with the primary funding from Katherine and James Colachis,” Whelan said. “The first was the closure of the roadway in front of Hughes Center and the Immaculata to create Colachis Plaza in the mid-1990s. The second project was the Plaza de San Diego, created between Maher and Serra Halls in 2005.”
Whelan’s work includes balancing architectural style and working with architects to understand program needs. That is partly why so much time and effort was put into ensuring that what was going to be built would fit the community and the needs of the students.
The project idea began in 1984 when Mrs. Colachis and her family helped commission a landscape architect to look at the entirety of USD with the hope of developing a more student-friendly area. According to Whelan, when discussing the master plan process in 1996, the goal was to incorporate the plans drafted in 1984. Mrs. Colachis came forward in 2010 with a donation of seven million dollars for the project to bring to life what she and her family had started years ago.
“The concept was to remove the roadway and create a pedestrian mall for students, faculty, staff, and visitors, interconnecting our academic buildings west of the Immaculata,” Whelan said. “The final design derived from campus stakeholder input, including student and faculty workshops, which helped to shape the experience we hope this new space can provide.”
Removing the roadways has an impact on parking. There are about 60 fewer spaces and the West Parking Structure will be utilized for students, faculty, and visitors. Also, the trams will now travel shorter distances between the West Structure and SOLES, which will make for faster tram services.
In 2012, the process for the design continued with input from students and faculty. The elements that made the Colachis project a reality came from the ideas of what students and faculty on campus wanted to see. For example, students and faculty gave feedback that the lawn in the middle of the mall could be used as an outdoor classroom area.
According to Whelan, there was a pause on the project, and in early 2016, those ideas from 2012 were reintroduced to validate that what was being built fulfilled what the university wanted.
Ky Snyder, Vice President of University Operations, corroborated the idea that the pedestrian mall is meant for students and their needs.
“We really want to reserve that space so that students can just come outside, sit on the lawn, play frisbee, study, meet with friends, and do what students want to do,” Snyder said. “This is the fulfillment of a vision for campus that was recognized long ago and due to the Colachis family, we are now seeing firsthand the vision they wanted fulfilled for our campus.”
Not only was this a massive transformation for the middle of campus, but the project had a tight deadline to be completed. According to Snyder, the university did not want this construction to impact the school longer than one semester. With the help of the design team as well as the contractor for the project, Rudolph and Sletten, the construction was completed within the desired timeline.
The project’s first construction date was January 9, 2017. The construction crew worked on the project for extended hours and even weekends since school has been out. Most of the fencing has been taken down and Paseo de Colachis is ready for students and faculty to enjoy while the final fencing around the library is removed after Labor Day weekend.
It was a long construction for students living in Camino Hall and Founders Hall and for those who utilized the buildings for class. Sophomore Victoria Klazura is excited to see the finished project.
“I lived in the back [of Founders] Hall so I didn’t hear the construction that loudly from my room,” Klazura said. “I did have a class in Camino with a window facing the outside and I could hear the construction from that room, so I understand how the construction could have annoyed people closer to the construction.”
It is no secret that the construction was an inconvenience but the final product is exciting now that it’s ready to utilize.
“Also, it was inconvenient having to walk around to get to Olin and the buildings on the opposite side of the construction, but I think the final product will be worth it,” said Klazura. “I haven’t seen the final product yet, but I’m excited to see it!”
Although this project might have come across as an inconvenience, the campus community can use the new addition to its full capacity after Labor Day weekend.
Lilyana Espinoza | News Editor | The USD Vista