Every day, students pass the west entrance of Le Mans Hall and watch as workers spread gravel, lay patio tiles and work to turn the space into… What?
With no report from the College, Saint Mary’s students do not know what the construction is for.
In 2020, the space was a popular hangout spot called Belle's Corner. Due to COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting eating in the dining hall, it was outfitted with tables, chairs and string lights to give students an outdoor seating option.
So why get rid of it?
According to Ben Bowman, director of facilities, the furniture used in Belle’s Corner was moved to Belle’s Backyard in 2021.
“We wanted that furniture to be closer to the main east and west walkway,” Bowman said. “We thought it would be more attractive.”
However, the College still wanted to offer an abundance of outdoor seating. The new Belle’s Corner will be a paved outdoor seating area with tables, chairs, lights and fireplaces and is currently under construction.
Bowman discussed many features of the new space, including highlighting its natural beauty.
“We’re trying to preserve the trees that are there and keep a canopy over the patio space,” he said.
The previous Belle's Corner setup caused many issues with lawn maintenance, but the new permeable paver system will allow rainwater to travel between the pavers and down to the roots of the trees below, Bowman said.
Additionally, this new space will be outfitted with WiFi, something Bowman hopes will draw students to the space. There will be electrical power for a DJ booth for the patio to be utilized at outdoor events.
A common complaint among students, however, was the lack of information and student input.
“I don’t even know what’s happening,” said Le Mans resident and senior Isabella Thompson-Davoli. “I figured it out by now that it’s some sort of patio, but it would have been nice to hear about it from the College.”
Junior Le Mans resident Anna McMahon had similar thoughts.
“I really liked the way the area used to be, I hope it doesn’t change too much,” she said.
Bowman said there was input on the project, just not from students.
“There are a lot of administrative offices that overlook that space,” Bowman said. “They asked for facilities and administration input.”
Another common complaint from students was that construction is being done now rather than over the summer.
“I like the idea, but it's going to be getting cold soon, so I probably won’t even use it until next spring," Thompson-Davoli said.
Bowman said there was no way around it.
“We had difficulty this summer with contractors and labor shortages,” he said.
Regardless, Bowman said the new space will require 180 tons of gravel and boast 400 inches of lights and 111 pieces of furniture. The construction will also maintain four trees that are natural to the area.
Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at email@example.com