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Expansion plans in place for Chatham branch campus in Richland

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Chatham University plans to build two dormitories and a dining hall next year on the east side of Ridge Road at its Eden Hall campus in Richland.

One of the new dorms will offer 63 beds. The other new dorm will offer 76 beds.

“Our plan is to start (construction) late next spring, and finish in the late summer or early fall of 2015,” said Walter Fowler, vice president for finance and administration at Chatham University.

Only students in Chatham's programs for master's degrees in food studies and sustainability currently meet on the Eden Hall campus for classes held in the dormitory-like Lodge, an existing structure on the property.

The two, new dorms — both three-story structures — and dining hall are part of an amended master plan for Chatham's new School of Sustainability and the Environment. Richland supervisors approved the changed plan at their Aug. 21 meeting.

“The new dining hall building is very multipurpose,” Fowler said.

The university's original master plan — approved in June 2011 — proposed the construction of three, rather than two, dormitories on the east side of Ridge Road. “As design proceeded, it was determined that the original positioning of the first residence halls, as three structures built on a fairly steep slope, was not efficient,” Fowler said. “So the plan changed to two structures, moved slightly west on the site, to a flatter section of land.”

Chatham's new plan places the new dorms about 60 feet from Ridge Road. The buildings' new location also gives fire departments improved access to the structures.

“The acres where the residence halls (originally) were planned will stay green,” Fowler said.

In May, Chatham relocated a 50-foot-by-16-foot dairy barn on the Eden Hall campus to a nearby, new foundation. Chatham officials plan to preserve the approximately 50-year-old structure and renovate it for use as a café.

The café is among a number of projects already underway during a first phase of development on the Eden Hall campus, a former estate owned by the late Sebastian Mueller, a German immigrant and H.J. Heinz Co. executive.

Five years ago, the Eden Hall Foundation donated the late Mueller's 388-acre country property to Chatham University. Mueller previously offered and used the estate as a rural retreat for Pittsburgh working women.

In October 2012, Chatham ceremoniously broke ground for the land's reincarnation as a rural college campus.

In addition to the makeover of Eden Hall's dairy barn, other projects nearing completion on the property include construction of an outdoor amphitheater, a field laboratory with classrooms, a sewage treatment system with constructed wetlands, rain gardens, and a parking lot, plus, installation of an elevator for disabled visitors to the Lodge.

Chatham also plans to eventually build an Eco Center on the campus as an addition to the former Eden Hall estate's main barn beside Ridge Road.

“The Eco Center will still be built,” Fowler said. “But we need the residence halls and dining hall first.”

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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