Construction at Notre Dame - What’s Hiding Behind the Chain-linked Fence?

Author: Corinne Quane

Mc 6"

Chain-linked fences are scattered across campus in front of Hesburgh library, on the bank of St. Mary’s lake, to the right of Johnson Family Hall hiding construction projects from onlookers. It seems that as soon as one fence comes down, another goes up. Students and visitors peer through gaps in the tarps, trying to decipher the faded project descriptions hanging on the fences in an attempt to guess at what is being built next.

One of Notre Dame’s most recently revealed projects is the “Our Lady of the Lake World Peace Plaza” at St. Mary’s Lake. The plaza is a large, stone surface in the shape of a circle. The main piece is a flat-topped, black-granite infinity fountain. Water ripples across the granite surface, allowing those strolling around or sitting down to watch the sunset to listen to the peaceful sound of running water. Inscribed on the granite is a prayer for peace written in six different languages. The plaza also holds several shrub-like plants and flowers built into the stone architecture.

To many, the construction seemed to take forever. But Carolina Bolivar, a junior at Notre Dame, admits, “It was worth the wait.” Though she’s upset that the tables which once stood there have been removed, she still thinks it’s “a beautiful little spot.”

The plaza was built in remembrance of William J. Pulte, who passed away in March of 2018. Described by his family and friends as a man of faith and love, Pulte was the owner of Pulte Homes, at one point the largest home construction group in the United States. 

A little further down from the infinity fountain, a second fence remains standing. It blocks off an unfinished portion of the World Peace Plaza, a section that will eventually serve as a boardwalk which extends into the lake.

The long awaited World Peace Plaza is not the only construction project of interest on campus. Many dorms are expecting renovations, new neighbors and for some, rumor has it, removal. Students are especially intrigued by these projects, as many could affect their living situations.

Breen-Phillips Hall is set for renovation next year. Residents of Breen-Phillips will live in the old Zahm Hall (which has served as a swing dorm for the past two years) during the renovation. Last year, the dorm housed Sorin residents, and this year it houses the residents of Alumni while their dorm undergoes renovations. 

Behind Breen-Phillips, on East Quad, a new dorm is being built next to Johnson Family Hall. Though it’s hard to imagine the hall that will fill in the gaping hole that sits there right now, the residence hall will house around 260 men once it is completed. Dunne, Flaherty and Johnson Family Halls can expect their new neighbor in the summer of 2024. 

Claire McArthur, a sophomore Johnson Family resident, has mixed feelings. Her window on the third floor overlooks the construction site. “A lot of the time it doesn’t bother me,” she said. “Though, before Thanksgiving, for two straight weeks I would wake up to (the sound of) construction, but really that’s the only time I noticed it.”

McArthur explains that she had heard that Johnson Family was in a very peaceful location before the construction began. Previously, a big open field filled the space next to the dorm. Students could finish their homework in the sun or lay out in the grass and catch up with friends. McArthur regrets that she was not able to enjoy this aspect of her dorm but tries to look on the bright side. “It’s kind of fun to look out my window and see the progress,” she says.

With the addition of the World Peace Plaza and a new men’s dorm, Notre Dame’s campus will be seeing a lot of change. As the year continues, hopefully more fences will come down to reveal new and exciting spots on campus