Diocese to unveil plans for new Newman Center on UMass campus

  • An artist conception of the 400-seat chapel in the new Newman Center. Project plans are expected to be discussed at a Planning Board meeting via Zoom on Wednesday. Submitted Photo

  • An artist’s conception of the new Newman Center shows a 19,055-square-foot, two-story building on the opposite side of North Pleasant from the current building.

Staff Writer
Published: 11/17/2020 2:22:41 PM

AMHERST — Preliminary plans for the new building to house the Newman Catholic Center on the University of Massachusetts campus will be presented to the Planning Board Wednesday.

Vinsu Shah, a representative of CBT Architects of Boston, will discuss designs for the project, which would replace the existing Newman Center at 472 North Pleasant St. that opened in April 1963. In August, the Springfield Catholic Diocese sold the building for $12.5 million to the UMass Building Authority.

The Planning Board meeting will be held via Zoom and starts at 6:30 p.m.

Mark Dupont, spokesman for the diocese, describes the project as a “dynamically designed building” to support the Newman Center’s mission, with both student lounges and study areas.

“But most importantly, a beautiful new chapel that will accommodate the same number of worshipers as does the current Newman Center chapel,” Dupont said.

Artist conceptions for the project show a 19,055-square-foot, two-story building going up on the opposite side of North Pleasant from the current building, along Thatcher Road and near where the Hills House stood until its demolition in 2017.

The L-shaped building includes a white stone facade, with a flat roof, and large windows in the community spaces. Stained-glass windows provide much of the natural light in the 400-seat chapel, where there will also be a 15-seat choir loft.

Planning Director Christine Brestrup wrote in an email that the meeting may feature the only public presentation on the project since no land use permits are needed, unless wetlands exist on the site. No Planning Board review is needed because town zoning excludes projects in the educational zoning district.

When construction will begin is unknown at this time, Dupont said.

As part of the arrangement with the university, the current building is being leased back to the diocese for up to five years so it can continue being used as the Catholic hub on campus until the replacement building is ready.

The land on which the new building goes up will be leased to the diocese for a one-time payment of around $2.1 million.

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