Nov. 6, 2003
Vol. 23 No. 4

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    Future College housing under discussion

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    As part of its planning for the future of College housing, University administrators are discussing a plan that could ultimately involve building a new residence hall and selling Shoreland Hall.

    “In the course of deliberating the future of college housing following the completion of Max Palevsky, it became clear that the costs for maintaining the Shoreland were extraordinary,” said Cheryl Gutman, Deputy Dean of Housing and Dining Services. “The question increasingly became should we do it, or should we build new capacity that better suits our programmatic goals?”

    University administrators are discussing a possible new use for the Shoreland because of the impending costs of maintaining the building. Mandatory and recommended repairs to the building’s faŤade will cost $19 million alone. Renovations to the residential spaces are projected to cost an additional $26 million. All told, Gutman said, renovating the Shoreland and keeping it compliant with city regulations will cost the University nearly $45 million-roughly the cost of building the larger Max Palevsky Residential Commons on a per-bed basis.

    Gutman said the University is at the beginning of a lengthy process of evaluating its housing options, which will include a feasibility study for the future of a new dormitory, the assessment of new sites for the dorm and evaluation of possible new uses for Shoreland Hall.”

    “Any decision made now is a 50-year plan,” said Steve Klass, Vice President and Dean of Students in the University. “We want to make the best possible decision based on the resources available to meet our programmatic needs.”

    Klass said building a dormitory closer to the center of campus is consistent with longstanding programmatic goals that the College has had, which were reinforced by the 1996 publication of the Kidwell Report on the quality of student life.

    The University-sponsored report found the primary reason the University “lacked of strong sense of community” was the absence of a vibrant center of student campus life. The report attributed much of this problem to the geographic fragmentation of student housing. “The most troubling findings,” said Klass, “were that so many students described their University experience as feeling ‘like a commuter school.’” Since the findings, the University has worked aggressively to concentrate student life and housing closer to the Quadrangles by renovating the Reynolds Club and opening Bartlett Dining Hall, the Max Palevsky Residential Commons and the Ratner Athletics Center.

    “Historically,” Klass added, “all residence halls built by the University have been centered on or near campus.”

    What has further reinforced this strategy of centralizing student life, Klass said, is student response. Since the opening of the Max Palevsky Residential Commons, more than 81 percent of incoming students have selected a dorm near the center of campus as their first choice, over 30 percentage points more than just a few years ago. Gutman also added that the only three dormitories that have a waiting list for returning students this autumn are close to campus: Burton-Judson, Palevsky and Pierce residence halls.

    “The question before us now is whether we should continue to invest significant resources in the Shoreland or invest instead in a new residence hall, which would satisfy our goal of encouraging stronger community for College students and satisfy increasing choice among students for housing closer to the heart of campus,” Gutman said.

    As part of its planning process, University officials are discussing possible future uses for the Shoreland, a former historic hotel. “We are exploring with private firms the option for redeveloping the building in ways that are consistent with a building of its historic character,” said Henry Webber, Vice President of Community and Government Affairs.

    Possible future uses could involve renovating the Shoreland into private apartments or condominiums. But Webber added, “This is the announcement of a process, not a decision.”

    Gutman emphasized that the process of building a new residence hall is lengthy, noting that several stages take place from conception to construction. Once the Board of Trustees approves construction of a new building, it could take up to four years to complete. A proposed new residence hall of some type is expected to open in the fall of 2007.