By Cameron Enders, Out and About Editor.
This summer between the spring and fall semesters, Daemen finished construction of the foundation of the Saffrin Public Square. The quad replaced the parking lot between the Research and Information Commons (RIC) and the Yurtchuk Student Center (YSC) and was named in honor of Vice Chair of Daemen’s Board of Trustees Paul Saffrin.
While the quad was waiting for students at the start of this semester, there is still more to come. According to an issue of Daemen Voice from October 4, a fountain will be installed in May 2024 in the center of the circle. Along with the fountain, the university is planning a donation campaign to buy mature trees to be planted across the quad, which has begun to roll out in late October.
Already, a Ringo Starr ‘Peace and Love’ statue was unveiled earlier this month as part of the public square’s peace garden. The statue was a donation from Board of Trustee member John Yurtchuk.
“I feel like it’s not very Daemen-core,” Emilee Kassay, an illustration major (2024), said when asked about how they felt about the ‘Peace and Love’ statue. “We could have done what every other campus does and put up a statue of our mascot.”
According to a letter to campus from President Olson, the reasons for the Saffrin Public Square’s construction were to make campus “more aesthetically pleasing, safer, and pedestrian-friendly.”
“I think it makes the school more appealing. I felt like, especially when I first started here, there was not a lot of space for activities, everyone was cooped up,” Ryan Beck, a physical therapy major (2024), said when asked about his opinion on the quad.
“I think they could have done better, and I could have sworn the original plan had much more,” Glenn Sharkey, a physical therapy major (2028), said.
The original plan he was referring to was from the 2020-2025 Facilities Master Plan, which showed a plan much different than what the quad is now. Originally, there was supposed to be a raised central platform with benches along the outside and an open green space in the middle.
The addition of rain gardens along the side of the RIC facing the YSC has also been excluded at this time in the current design. No official press releases from the university or President Olson have explained why this drastic change in design occurred.
But the current design of the quad does have its upsides, with Beck saying, “I think with that being so flat [referring to the current layout of the quad], I feel like they might be able to do more events with that setup.”
“I started to warm up to it at night because I was walking through it at night and it was rather peaceful,” Sharkey said.
“A big part of adding the quad was to remove the safety hazard created by having a parking lot between the main academic building and the student center on campus. It has helped to make the campus more pedestrian-friendly.” Kelly Holland, Director of Institutional Communication, stated in an email.
When asked about the safety of the old parking lot, a campus safety officer said that the lot was not any more dangerous than any other part of campus for pedestrians, implying safety concerns were less important than the desire for the campus to have an appealing green space.
As tuition rates are on the rise in the United States, you can rest assured that this new green space will have no immediate impact on your tuition rates. Holland assured in an email that the Saffrin Public Square was paid for fully by donors and will have zero impact on student tuition.
In fact, according to a Daemen Voice article from August 30, 2023, the entire project was funded by a donation of $1.5 million from Trustee Paul Saffrin.
The biggest impact the public square has had on campus so far is its displacement of parking spots at a campus where parking was already an issue for many students and faculty. The quad was built where a major parking lot between the RIC and YSC was.
This loss of parking was attempted to be preemptively corrected by the university building three new parking lots along Getzville Road (Lots L, M, and N) over the last year. With a fourth new auxiliary parking lot unveiled for this semester, where the old Denny’s was at Main Street and Amherstdale Road,
“As for commuters who have to walk that extra distance, I do feel for them, especially if they have, like, arthritis or just can’t walk as well. Especially during the winter, that’ll be a real challenge with the cold weather, ice, and all,” said Kassay when asked about how they felt about the impact the quad has on campus.
“Am I going to miss that parking lot because it means we wouldn’t have to struggle as badly finding parking? Yes,” Sharkey said.
But not all views on the change of parking have been negative. Beck said, “I think it [referring to the new parking lots] supports additional walking. I actually kind of like that it is more hidden.”
Certainly, the Saffrin Public Square brings a splash of greenery to a once concrete pad that saw some of the most foot traffic on campus. And will hopefully encourage more students to spend their time outdoors in the coming spring. President Olson said in an issue of the Daemen Voice from June 29 of this year, “The Daemen Public Square [now the Saffrin Public Square] caps a long-term beautification process. We’ve made our campus more aesthetically pleasing, safer, and pedestrian-friendly, truly creating a distinctive student experience.”