USF invests $22.7 million in campus construction including science building and chapel

usf groundbreaking
Groundbreaking for the USF chapel and science building expansion (USF image)

The University of Saint Francis (USF) in Ft. Wayne says it is embarking on two signature projects that will more vividly demonstrate the Catholic integration of faith and reason, including a new chapel and the expansion and modernization of the university’s science building.

The general contractor for both projects is Tonn and Blank Construction. The Achatz Hall of Science and Research Center has unique needs that required a specialized architectural firm with experience in science buildings. BHDP of Cincinnati, Ohio, was chosen for the project.

The chapel site was chosen to be visible and accessible to students as they walk to and from class. The new St. Francis Chapel will seat 250 people and will have 360-degree views of the campus. Green space will surround the building and close access to parking will be helpful to visitors for Mass. The university will continue to host televised Sunday morning Mass—provided by the Fort Wayne/South Bend Diocese—in the new space, and the project includes updated technology for that purpose.

The cupola is a distinctive feature of the new building as are the plans for the interior. The chapel, designed by a liturgical architect at Design Collaborative, will have a choir loft, adoration space and other features. The St. Francis Chapel is targeted for completion in the fall of 2018

USF hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on July 24 at the Spring Street campus during which Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blessed the sites, and along with university and community leaders, “broke ground” to commemorate the occasion and officially launch the projects.

The new 7,000-sq. ft. freestanding St. Francis Chapel in the center of campus will provide easy access for all members of the campus community to the celebration of the Eucharist, and offer a place for prayer and reflection for all visitors. The chapel’s steeple will be the tallest point on campus.

The expansion and modernization of Achatz Hall of Science is 26,000 sq. ft. and will be adjacent to the new chapel.

The science building was originally constructed in 1969 and has been modified multiple times to keep up with the changing demands of science education. The planned expansion and renovation will significantly modernize the building plus add a number of new science laboratories and student spaces to accommodate the university’s growing science and healthcare programs, the university says in its statement.

Phase one of the science construction is the addition toward the chapel that is lined with windows. Illuminating the campus at night and visible from Spring St., this addition is expected to be complete at the end of 2018. With students learning in the new addition, a back renovation of the current Achatz Hall of Science building will occur to allow classes to continue throughout the school year, and that phase is targeted for completion at the end of 2019. The finished Achatz Hall of Science and Research Center will have twelve laboratories customized to the specialized needs of today’s science-related technology and pedagogy. These laboratories include Biotech, Microbiology, Anatomy & Physiology, Computer, Organic, and Chemistry.

The building has other student-friendly features like a second floor outdoor balcony and student study spaces in the first and second floor atrium with full view of the Chapel, Mirror Lake and other buildings on campus. As students enter the glass atrium, they are greeted by a grand staircase and can utilize conference rooms, study areas and lounges, all with the same wide views of the campus and architectural details that honor the university’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

“The construction activity of the next two years will be a visible sign to our students and to the community that the University of Saint Francis is ready to serve our students and prepare them for their future vocations,” said USF president Sister M. Elise Kriss.

Fundraising for the $22.7 million Faith & Reason Capital Campaign will continue throughout the construction timeframe.


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